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I live in a multifamily row house in the northeast. There is a 2 bedroom, 1 bath garden apartment plus a 2 floor duplex and a basement. I am the owner and I live in the duplex, we rent out the garden apartment. I pay the National Grid (gas) and Con Ed bill (electric) for the whole building. The building footprint is 20x50. We have Hydronic baseboard heating (copper pipes with aluminum fins) throughout. We have 2 hot water heaters and 2 boilers. We have a gas dryer, and a gas stove. All other appliances are electric. During the spring/summer/fall, our National Grid gas bill is very low. We receive two bills monthly, one for the tenant unit/basement and one for the 2nd/3rd floor where we live. During the spring, summer and fall the combined two bills are quite low, usually less than $100 combined. In the Winter, specifically Dec-March, our combined bill skyrockets to a combined $600. Our house is still very cold. The radiators are barely warm when you touch them on our main floor. They work slightly better on the top floor.

Here is my question:

  • If we are spending this much on gas, why are my baseboard heaters still barely warm to the touch?

We have had the national grid inspect our system and they have confirmed that nothing is wrong. Therm use is 163 for the top two floors and 110 for the bottom 2 floors. Anyone have any advice or wisdom?

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    we need a lot more info to be able to help: what is the volume of gas used, (so independent from price). Log your meter reading day to day while you perform your experiments, as well as outside and inside temperature. What is the history of your gas usage over the past (say) 5 years? how old is the house? insulation? draft seals? Also check your water meter for any leaks specifically in the hot water piping.
    – P2000
    Jan 19, 2023 at 21:13
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    did you check the water level in the hydronic system? If there's no water (leak or pressured air) then there's poor heat transfer, if any
    – P2000
    Jan 19, 2023 at 21:55
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    We need both more and less information to help. All the stuff about cost and billing is both irrelevant and officially off topic. Please revise to provide detail about the heating system and home insulation, to start. Remove the stuff that isn't that.
    – isherwood
    Jan 19, 2023 at 22:08
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    Did you read your energy audit? Jan 19, 2023 at 22:19
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    Even if your heating system can't keep up with the heating load of your property, the radiators should be hot to the touch. Have you had a trusted boiler heating professional do a checkup on your system to confirm proper operation (and not just a person from the gas company confirming there are no gas leaks). While your system is running, can you feel the pipes at your boiler to confirm that they're hot to confirm that your boiler is putting out hot water to begin with?
    – Milwrdfan
    Jan 19, 2023 at 22:58

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During the period you used the space heaters make sure your gas company took an actual reading. Sometimes companies will estimate based on previous use then when an actual reading is done correct the bill. Even though you used electric heaters, during really cold times it will take more gas to heat the extremely cold water coming into your home / water heater, as well as take more to heat your stove in a colder kitchen.

The link below will provide more information on your heating system. Maybe you can gleam some information from it that might help you solve your mystery.

https://www.jlconline.com/how-to/hvac/hydronic-baseboard-basics_o

I also have an extremely cold house and high bill but I know mine is due to my house being really old and "leaky"! I have the old style rope windows that are very leaky. My house was built way before A/C and is designed to have air flow and vent so it is not sealed up at all!!

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  • Those rope-hung windows aren't designed to be leaky. But there are brass sliding seals on the sides, and felt seals on top and bottom that do need to be maintained. And of course no one ever does that, and usually the moving parts and those features aren't even installed. A good woodworker can also build them with double or triple pane windows, though the counterweights might need to be resized. Jan 19, 2023 at 22:16
  • I think my house was built in stages and by the homeowner way back when people use to build their own houses with the help of family and neighbors lol. The windows look to be hand made and just contain wood, glass, and the weights. It's not that they designed them to be leaky but just that they are. They are huge and many of them! They have really old beautiful glass so I am reluctant to change them to more efficient ones! The cooling airflow design is that of a huge ceiling fan which sucks air into the attic so when you open the windows you get wonderful airflow throughout the house.
    – SOHR
    Jan 19, 2023 at 23:09

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