Pretty basic question. I moved into an apartment that I love but have discovered the hot water baseboard is not providing enough heat. FYI, I am on the second floor of a two story building. There are two apartments (including mine) above a restaurant. From what I can glean, the two apartments share a Navien 'instant hot water' type of system. Last year when I moved in, mid-winter I said the heat was bad and they sent a plumber to check the Navien. When that was deemed ok, they closed the case and I just didn't have the energy to fight them. But here we are again....winter officially starts on Monday! Anyway the boys next door share the same problem so I have volunteered to lead the efforts. So before I contact management again I want to feel like I have a handle on the issue - which is why I am here. The windows are shot; no question. I can feel the cold when I stand next to them. But the landlord ain't going to drop $$$ this year into those I'm quite sure, so I am left with boosting the heat from the baseboards.

So when I investigated further I noticed that slightly less than 50% of the pipe in the baseboard was surrounded by 'fins' - just bare pipe. (The apartment has been here for decades and while the Navien system is new,I have know idea when the baseboards(fins) were installed. Looks like one can buy 2' sections of fins from Home Depot (see link below?) for ~ $55 each.

Here is the question: My living room has 28' of baseboard but 14' of fin coverage. If I suggest that we buy (7) 2' sections (~$400 with self-install) - is that the best solution? It would seem obvious that it should help but how much? I am definitely no engineer. Both me and the boys next door are pretty hardy but on cold nights it sucks to come home to an apartment that maxes out at ~ 65 degrees; both our thermostats are set to ~ 80 degrees but it has no effect. The windows are the real answer but the fins are probably more $$$ doable but is it the right move?
Sorry for the long write up. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Best, Peter

Fab-Tek Fins for 3/4" pipe

1 Answer 1


This is a frame challenge - the problem isn't so much how to fix the heating system, which I suspect will be far from a DIY job, but rather how to improve the comfort level in the apartments.

You have a identified a likely real source of the problem: the windows are very drafty so warm air leaks out/cold air leaks in faster than the heating system can heat the room.

Replacing windows is generally very expensive.

Insulating the windows is generally very inexpensive. My recommendation is something like this:

window insulation kit

There are plenty of kits of this type available. Basically they have a plastic film, a frame (e.g., special tape that you put around the edges) of some sort and you use a hair dryer to heat-shrink the plastic to fit.

This is not a perfect solution. But it can work fairly well because (a) if positioned correctly it can cover over actual cracks (e.g., window doesn't close 100%) and (b) the dead air between the plastic and the window glass acts as an insulator. It is easily removable, so if your landlord won't pay for it then you can do it yourself and be able to remove it when you leave (not to reuse, just to avoid a damage deposit). It is clear, so you still get light through the windows.

Your landlord should be willing to pay for this, because if it gets the apartments to the point where the heat does not have to run 24/7, that will have immediate payback on the gas/electric/oil bill, in addition to providing you with a more comfortable place to live.

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