What are Electric Hydronic Heaters?

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  • Written By: B. Turner
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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Electric hydronic heaters are a type of home heating system that combines the principles of electric resistance heating with the technology used in traditional boilers. Unlike gas or electric-powered furnaces, which heat air directly, these systems rely on electricity to heat a liquid, which then heats the surrounding air. Depending on the type of system, electric hydronic heaters may utilize either water or refrigerant. This liquid is sealed within the unit and any associated piping to prevent leaks and burns while helping to extend the life of the unit.

These heaters include both baseboard units and portable space heaters. When installed along the baseboards of a room, electric hydronic heaters are often connected to a central heating unit, such as a boiler. The boiler contains a heating element, such as a copper coil. As electricity passes through the coil, it glows with heat, causing the surrounding liquid to heat up as well. This hot liquid travels through a series of pipes to each baseboard heater in the home.

Once the liquid reaches each heater, the heater draws cool air from the room into the unit. This air passes over the hot pipes, which heats the air. From here, internal fans blow the hot air out to heat the room.


Many portable electric hydronic heaters operate using a slightly different technology. When the unit is turned on, electricity passes through the heating coil to heat the liquid within the unit. This liquid grows so hot that it radiates heat to the surrounding air, similar to a traditional steel radiator. Some electric hydronic heaters may also include a fan to blow heated air throughout the room.

Electric hydronic heaters offer a number of benefits to homeowners. They require no gas or heating oil, so there's no need to install a ventilation system. Without the need for gas lines, these heaters are often quick and easy to install, and pose fewer safety risks over time.

Unfortunately, electric heat is vastly inefficient. The process of transforming electricity into heat wastes a large volume of energy compared to heating systems that rely on fossil fuels. Despite this inefficiency, electric hydronic heaters do offer improved efficiency over standard electric-resistance heaters, which do not contain liquid. This is because the liquid in a hydronic system is able to store some thermal energy and reduce waste, while forced-air heaters cannot.

An electric hydronic heater also takes longer to produce heat than most other types of heating systems. Some buyers may not like the appearance of these heaters, which sit along the baseboards in a room instead of in a mechanical room like a standard furnace. Some manufacturers offer a range of cover designs to improve the look of these heaters and help them blend into a room more effectively.


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Post 1

Will an electric hydronic heater fluid freeze if turned off for the dead of winter, such as in a three season cabin? Our temps have been known to drop to -30 F.

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