Title:
Baseboard heating apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A baseboard heating apparatus includes housing sections that may be connected together and mounted to a mount, such as a plurality of brackets. A portion of a housing may be elastically deformed to engage the housing with a mount. The housing may be pivotally mounted to a mount at a position near a wall or other surface to allow the housing to be rotated open and allow access to the interior of the housing. A bracket may have a lower portion that both supports a heat exchanger and engages with a housing. A connector for interconnecting housing sections may have a groove into which a housing section is inserted.



Inventors:
William Jr., Null Montague (Millis, MA, US)
Application Number:
10/080298
Publication Date:
08/21/2003
Filing Date:
02/21/2002
Assignee:
MONTAGUE WILLIAM
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
165/55, 165/67, 165/70, 165/185, 237/79, 165/47
International Classes:
F24D19/04; F24H3/00; F28F1/14; (IPC1-7): F24D5/10; F24D19/02; F24D19/06; F24H3/00; F24H9/06; F28F7/00; F28F9/00; F28F11/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CIRIC, LJILJANA V
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DARBY & DARBY P.C. (New York, NY, US)
Claims:
1. A baseboard heater housing apparatus for enclosing a heat exchanger in a space intended to be occupied by humans, comprising: a housing section connector including at least one groove that receives an end of an exterior housing section to at least partially cover a gap between the exterior housing section and another exterior housing section, the groove being formed between opposing sidewalls and having a depth, the groove arranged to receive the end of the exterior housing section inserted in a direction substantially along the depth of the groove.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the housing section connector includes a resilient plastic material that frictionally engages the exterior housing section in the groove.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the groove in the housing section connector has a shape that approximates an exterior contour of the exterior housing section.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the housing section connector is unitarily molded as a single piece.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein a portion of the groove has an approximately U-shaped cross section.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the groove has a width that is at most equal to a thickness of the end of the exterior housing section.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the groove is continuous and receives an entire end of the exterior housing section.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least a portion of the housing section connector has an approximately H-shaped cross section and is arranged to receive and engage with two opposite housing sections.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least a portion of the housing section connector has an approximately Y-shaped cross section and is arranged to receive and engage with a first housing section and to overlap a portion of a second housing section.

10. A baseboard heater housing apparatus for enclosing a heat exchanger in a space intended to be occupied by humans, comprising: a housing section endcap including a portion with at least one groove that receives an end of an exterior housing section to at least partially enclose a heater housing, the groove being formed between opposing sidewalls and having a depth, the groove arranged to receive the end of the exterior housing section inserted in a direction substantially along the depth of the groove.

11. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein the housing section endcap includes a resilient material that frictionally engages the exterior housing section in the groove.

12. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein the groove in the housing section endcap has a shape that approximates an exterior contour of the exterior housing section.

13. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein the housing section endcap is unitarily molded as a single piece.

14. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein a portion of the groove has an approximately U-shaped cross section.

15. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein the groove has a width that is at most equal to a thickness of the end of the exterior housing section.

16. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein the groove is continuous and receives an entire end of the exterior housing section.

17. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein at least a portion of the housing section endcap has an approximately H-shaped cross section.

18. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein at least a portion of the housing section endcap has an approximately Y-shaped cross section and is arranged to receive and engage with a first housing section and to overlap a portion of a second housing section.

19. A baseboard heater housing apparatus comprising: a housing section connector comprising a resilient plastic material formed to have a portion with a shape that closely approximates at least a portion of a contour of an exterior baseboard heater housing section, the resilient material having a groove that receives and frictionally engages with an end of the exterior baseboard heater housing section to at least partially cover a gap between the exterior housing section and another exterior housing section.

20. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein groove is formed between opposing sidewalls and has a depth, the groove arranged to receive the end of the exterior housing section inserted in a direction substantially along the depth of the groove.

21. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein the groove in the housing section connector has a shape that approximates an exterior contour of the exterior housing section.

22. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein the housing section connector is unitarily molded as a single piece.

23. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein a portion of the groove has an approximately U-shaped cross section.

24. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein the groove has a width that is at most equal to a thickness of the end of the exterior housing section.

25. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein the groove is continuous and receives an entire end of the exterior housing section.

26. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein at least a portion of the housing section connector has an approximately H-shaped cross section.

27. A method for connecting housing sections in a baseboard heating apparatus, comprising: providing a housing section connector including at least one groove being formed between opposing sidewalls and having a depth, the housing section connector for at least partially covering a gap between exterior housing sections; providing a housing section having an end; and inserting the end of the housing section into the at least one groove of the housing section connector in a direction substantially along the depth of the groove.

28. The method of claim 27, wherein the step of providing a housing section connector comprises providing a housing section connector that includes a resilient plastic material that frictionally engages the exterior housing section in the groove.

29. The method of claim 27, wherein the step of providing a housing section connector comprises providing a housing section connector including at least one groove that has a shape that approximates an exterior contour of the exterior housing section.

30. The method of claim 27, wherein the step of providing a housing section connector comprises providing a housing section connector that is unitarily molded as a single piece.

31. The method of claim 27, wherein the step of providing a housing section connector comprises providing a housing section connector including at least one groove that has a portion with an approximately U-shaped cross section.

32. The method of claim 27, wherein the step of providing a housing section connector comprises providing a housing section connector including at least one groove that has a width that is at most equal to a thickness of the end of the exterior housing section.

33. The method of claim 27, wherein the step of providing a housing section connector comprises providing a housing section connector including at least one groove that is continuous and sized to receive an entire end of the exterior housing section.

34. The method of claim 27, wherein the step of providing a housing section connector comprises providing a housing section connector that has a portion with an approximately H-shaped cross section.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] This invention relates to a baseboard or wall mounted heater.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Baseboard heaters are widely used to heat residential spaces and typically include an electrically-powered heating element or a water/steam-based heat exchanger. The heat source is typically enclosed by a housing and supported by brackets in the housing.

[0003] The inventors have found a variety of disadvantages of some conventional baseboard heating arrangements. For example, many such heating arrangements do not allow easy access to the heat exchanger or other components within the baseboard housing, e.g., to clean dust and other debris from the heat exchanger. In addition, many of these baseboard housings have multiple components which complicates the construction, assembly and/or installation of the heaters. The heat exchangers used in typical baseboard heaters also tend to have a fixed heat output capacity per unit length that cannot be adjusted.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0004] In one aspect of the invention, a baseboard heater housing apparatus is provided for enclosing a heat exchanger in a space intended to be occupied by humans. The apparatus may include a housing section connector having at least one groove that receives an end of an exterior housing section to at least partially cover a gap between the exterior housing section and another exterior housing section. The groove may be formed between opposing sidewalls and have a depth so the groove may receive the end of the exterior housing section inserted in a direction substantially along the depth of the groove.

[0005] In another aspect of the invention, a baseboard heater housing apparatus includes a housing section endcap with a portion having at least one groove that receives an end of an exterior housing section to at least partially enclose a heater housing. The groove may be formed between opposing sidewalls and have a depth so the groove may receive the end of the exterior housing section inserted in a direction substantially along the depth of the groove.

[0006] In another aspect of the invention, a baseboard heater housing apparatus includes a housing section connector comprising a resilient plastic material formed to have a portion with a shape that closely approximates at least a portion of a contour of an exterior baseboard heater housing section. The resilient material may have a groove that receives and frictionally engages with an end of the exterior baseboard heater housing section to at least partially cover a gap between the exterior housing section and another exterior housing section.

[0007] In another aspect of the invention, a method for connecting housing sections in a baseboard heating apparatus includes providing a housing section connector with at least one groove formed between opposing sidewalls and having a depth. A housing section having an end may be provided, and the end of the housing section may be inserted into the at least one groove of the housing section connector in a direction substantially along the depth of the groove.

[0008] These and other aspects of the invention will be apparent from the following detailed description and the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0009] Illustrative embodiments in accordance with aspects of the invention are described below in conjunction with the following drawings in which like numerals reference like elements, and wherein:

[0010] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a hydronic heating system in accordance with the invention;

[0011] FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of a portion of the FIG. 1 system;

[0012] FIG. 3 shows an embodiment of a bracket for use with a heating system;

[0013] FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a finned heat exchanger in accordance with the invention;

[0014] FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the FIG. 4 heat exchanger;

[0015] FIG. 6 shows an alternate finned heat exchanger in accordance with the invention;

[0016] FIG. 7 shows yet another finned heat exchanger in accordance with the invention;

[0017] FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a perforation formed in a heat exchanger fin;

[0018] FIGS. 9-12 show alternate cross-sectional views of optional fin arrangements for heat exchangers in accordance with the invention;

[0019] FIG. 13 is a side view of a housing section connector in accordance with the invention;

[0020] FIG. 14 shows a cross-sectional view of the housing section connector along the line A-A shown in FIG. 13;

[0021] FIG. 15 shows an end cap for a heater housing in accordance with the invention; and

[0022] FIG. 16 shows another housing section connector in accordance with the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0023] Various aspects of the invention may be used in baseboard heating applications for residential or commercial spaces. As used herein, the term “baseboard” implies positioning a heating apparatus on a wall or similar surface typically, but not necessarily, at floor level. Thus, a baseboard heating apparatus according to the invention may be mounted to a wall surface at or above floor level at any suitable height.

[0024] FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a baseboard heating apparatus 1 in accordance with the invention. In this illustrative embodiment, the apparatus 1 includes housing sections 2 that enclose a heat exchanger 4. The heat exchanger 4 may include any suitable type of heat source, such as a hydronic heat source, electric resistance heating element, or other. The heat exchanger 4 and the housing sections 2 may be supported on a wall surface by any suitable heater mount, such as a plurality of brackets 5 that are secured to the wall or other surface. Although the heating apparatus 1 may include one housing section 2, the apparatus 1 may include multiple housing sections 2 that are connected together by connectors 3. For example, a first housing section 2a may be joined to a second housing section 2b by a connector 3, and the second housing section 2b may be joined to a third housing section 2c by another connector 3. As used herein, the term housing section refers to a variety of housing portions including elongated members that cover substantially straight portions of the heating apparatus, end caps that cover an end or termination of a heating apparatus, as well as inside corners, outside corners or other junction pieces.

[0025] FIG. 2 shows a cross-sectional view of an assembled section of the baseboard heating apparatus 1 shown in FIG. 1. In this illustrative embodiment, one or more brackets 5 are attached to a surface 9, such as a wall portion near a floor in a room. The bracket 5 has a top portion 51 near the surface 9 at a top end of the bracket 5 and a bottom portion 52 that extends outwardly from the surface 9 to form an approximate “L” shape. The bracket 5 may have an extension or tail 53 that extends below the bottom portion 52, e.g., to allow the bracket 5 to be easily and reliably positioned and/or supported on a floor. For example, the bracket 5 may be positioned on the wall so that the tail 53 contacts the floor.

[0026] In this illustrative embodiment, the housing 2 has a top portion 21 that engages with the top portion 51 of the bracket 5 and a bottom portion 22 that engages with the bottom portion 52 of the bracket 5 so that the housing 2 is mounted to the bracket 5. Although the housing 2 may engage the bracket 5 in any suitable way, in this embodiment, the top portion 21 of the housing 2 has a rolled end that seats in a curved portion of the top portion 51 of the bracket 5. With this arrangement, the top portion 21 may be self-centering or otherwise self-positioning with respect to the bracket 5 and/or the surface 9. That is, the top portion 21 may tend to seek a predetermined position relative to the top portion 51 of the bracket 5, thereby positioning the top portion 21 consistently with respect to the surface 9. The lower portion 22 of the housing 2 may engage the bracket 5 in any suitable way to help keep the housing 2 in place on one or more brackets 5. That is, like the top portion 21, the bottom portion 22 may frictionally engage the bracket 5 at a concave portion 56 as shown, or engage with a lip, tab, slot, hole, pivot pin or any other feature of the bracket 5, be fastened to the bracket 5 by screws, glue or other fastening arrangements, and so on.

[0027] One aspect of the invention illustrated in FIG. 2 is that the housing 2 may be pivotally mounted at a top portion near a wall or other surface 9. This aspect of the invention may allow a user to lift and rotate the housing 2 about a pivot point near a wall, e.g., to gain access to a heat exchanger or other objects enclosed by the housing 2. For example, with the housing 2 shown in FIG. 2, a user may grasp the bottom portion 22 of the housing 2 and lift the bottom portion 22 so that the housing 2 rotates about a connection point between the rolled end of the top portion 21 and the curved portion of the bracket 5. This is in contrast to many conventional baseboard heater housings in which a portion of the housing must be disconnected from its mount to gain access within the housing. The pivotal mounting of the housing 2 may be arranged in any suitable way, such as that shown in FIG. 2, by a hinge pin connection between the bracket 5 and the housing 2 (e.g., where a top portion 51 of the bracket 5 carries a hinge pin, and one or more hinge knuckles on the top portion 21 of the housing 2 engage the hinge pin), or other arrangements as will be appreciated by those of skill in the art.

[0028] Another aspect of the invention illustrated in FIG. 2 is that at least a portion of the housing may be elastically deformed to engage with a mount. For example, in the illustrative embodiment shown in FIG. 2, at least a portion of the housing 2 is elastically deformed to engage the top portion 21 of the housing 2, which is positioned near the surface 9, with a top portion 51 of the bracket 5, and engage the bottom portion 22 of the housing 2 with a bottom portion 52 of the bracket 5. The top portion 21 of the housing 2 may be positioned within 1 inch or less from the surface 9, preferably within ½ inch or less, or more preferably within ¼ inch or less of the surface 9. Any suitable portion of the housing 2 may be elastically deformed when engaging the housing 2 with one or more brackets 5 or other mount, and optionally may remain elastically deformed while engaged with the brackets 5. For example, a curved portion at the bottom portion 22 may be elastically deformed to engage the brackets 5 and keep the housing 2 in place. Of course, it will be understood that other portions of the housing 2, such as a middle section and/or top portion 21 of the housing 2 may be elastically deformed to at least some extent when engaging the housing 2 with one or more brackets 5. In this way, the housing 2 may tend to stay mounted to the brackets 5, even in the case of minor bumps or other impacts experienced by the housing 2. That is, the housing 2 may tend to stay in place on the brackets 5 in the absence of a user intentionally removing the housing 2 from the brackets 5. Further, no fasteners or other devices may be needed to keep the housing 2 in place. This may allow for easier installation and/or removal of the housing 2, e.g., before or after cleaning a space enclosed by the housing 2. Further, removal of the housing 2 may allow for easier cleaning or painting of the housing 2 itself, or replacement of the housing 2. For example, the housing 2 may be removed and replaced with another housing 2 that has a different color, shape, size or other features. This is in contrast to many conventional baseboard heater housings in which replacement of an entire housing can be difficult or impossible.

[0029] It should be understood that the housing 2 may be made of any suitable material or combination of materials, such as plastic, metal, and so on. The housing 2 may be any suitable color or have any suitable surface texture, e.g., may be painted, or may have a coloring incorporated into the housing 2, as in the case of a colored plastic material. The housing may have any suitable shape, and may have any suitable arrangement of openings, louvers, doors, panels, or other features to allow and/or control air flow through the housing. For example, the housing 2 may have closable openings or other features near the top portion 21 so that air may flow under the bottom portion 22 into the interior of the housing 2 and upward through the openings.

[0030] Another aspect of the invention illustrated in FIG. 2 is that a bottom portion of a bracket may both support a heat exchanger or other heat source and engage with a portion of a housing to support the housing on the bracket. For example, in FIG. 2, the bottom portion 52 of the bracket 5 supports a heat exchanger 4 and engages with the bottom portion 22 of the housing 2. In this illustrative embodiment, the heat exchanger 4 is a hydronic-type heat exchanger having a central tube 41 that carries heated water and radiates heat via longitudinally extending fins 42, but the bottom portion 52 of the bracket 5 may support any type of heat source, such as an electrical resistance heating element, and so on. By both supporting a heat exchanger 4 and engaging with a bottom portion 22 of a housing 2, the bottom portion 52 of the bracket 5 may be made more simply and have fewer parts than other arrangements in which one portion of the bracket 5 supports a heat exchanger and another portion engages with a bottom portion 22 of the housing 2. For example, some conventional brackets for baseboard heating systems include a first portion that supports a heat exchanger and a second portion below the first portion that engages with a housing 2. This arrangement complicates the design of the bracket 5 and may result in increased cost in manufacturing the bracket.

[0031] FIG. 3 shows a perspective view of an illustrative embodiment of a bracket in accordance with the invention. As can be seen in FIG. 3, the bracket has one or more holes 55 that may be used to secure the bracket 5 to the surface 9, e.g., by screws or other fasteners. The bottom portion 52 may have a lip 54 or other feature to help keep the heat exchanger 4 or other heat source in place on the bottom portion 52. An optional tail 53 may be included to help appropriately position the bracket 5 a desired distance from the floor in a room. In the illustrated embodiment, the tail 53 is formed by cutting a slot 57 in the bottom portion 52 and bending the bottom portion 52 upward away from the tail 53, but the tail 53 may be formed in other ways. In addition, the bottom portion 52 includes a concave portion 56, that may be formed by bending the bottom portion 52 appropriately, to engage with the housing 2. Of course, as discussed above, it should be understood that the bracket 5 may have any suitable shape or other configuration to engage with the housing, to support the heat source, or perform other functions. Further, in some embodiments, the brackets may be used with, or replaced by, other types of heater mounts, such as one including a backplane (e.g., an elongated metal sheet) that is secured to the surface 9 and helps support the housing 2. The backplane or other heater mount may have brackets, bracket-like features or other arrangements to engage with and support the housing 2.

[0032] In another aspect of the invention, a heat exchanger may have at least one fin that extends along a longitudinal axis of the heat source and extends radially from the longitudinal axis such that the at least one fin is arranged to support the weight of the heat exchanger. For example, as shown in FIG. 2, a heat exchanger 4 has four fins 42 that extend along the length of the heat exchanger 4 and extend radially. At least the fins 42 positioned at a lower side of the heat exchanger 4 are arranged to support the weight of the heat exchanger 4 on the bottom portion 52 of the bracket 5. With this arrangement, no other hangers or other supports for the heat exchanger other than the brackets 5 need be provided. In addition, a central tube portion 41 or other supporting structure need not necessarily be made robust enough to support the weight of the heat exchanger 4, e.g., as in conditions where the heat exchanger 4 is supported only at opposite ends by supports engaging with the tube 41. This feature may allow the tube 41 to be made thinner, thereby potentially lowering the cost of manufacturing the tube and/or enhancing the heat transfer capability of the heat exchanger 4.

[0033] FIG. 4 shows a perspective view of the heat exchanger 4 shown in FIG. 2. The heat exchanger 4 includes an elongated heat source portion, in this embodiment the tube 41, that extends along a longitudinal axis. One or more fins 42 also extend along the longitudinal axis as well as extend radially from the tube 41. The fins 42 may be formed as part of the heat exchanger 4 in any suitable way. For example, the tube 41 and fins 42 may be extruded as a single piece. Alternately, the fins 42 may be formed from flat bars or strips of material that are secured to the tube 41, e.g., by one or more beads of solder 43 as shown in FIG. 5, welding, adhesive, and so on. Alternately, the fins 42 may be made as one or more pieces that are press fit onto a central tube 41 or other heat source. This arrangement may allow the fins to be made of a relatively inexpensive, light and/or highly thermally conductive material, such as aluminum, and be thermally coupled to a central tube 41 or other heat source made of a material that allows easier fabrication in the field, such as a copper tube. For example, a fin arrangement such as that shown in FIG. 4 may be extruded as a single aluminum piece that has a copper center tube (not shown) press fit or otherwise engaged within an opening between the fins 42.

[0034] FIG. 6 shows an alternate arrangement for the fins 42 in which intermittent portions 44 are coupled to the tube 41 and openings 45 are arranged between the intermittent portions 44. The openings 45 may allow for airflow through the fins 42, thereby improving heat transfer of the heat exchanger 4. The size, shape and/or method of attachment at the intermittent portions 44 may be arranged to maximize heat transfer to the fins 42, maximize air flow through the fins 42, and/or allow the fins 42 to support the weight of the heat exchanger 4.

[0035] The fins 42 may be arranged in other ways to allow airflow through the fins. For example, as shown in FIG. 7, openings 45 may be formed in the fins 42 by punch pressing portions of the fins. FIG. 8 shows a close-up view of one opening 45 formed in a fin 42 by a punch press process. In this illustrative embodiment, the opening 45 is formed by punching a portion of the fin 42 so that a 3-sided cut is formed in the fin 42. The tab 46 freed by the cut in the fin 42 is bent downwardly to form the opening 45. As will be appreciated by those of skill in the art, forming an opening 45 in the manner shown in FIG. 8 actually increases the surface area for heat transfer of the fin 42 while forming an opening 45 to allow air to pass through the fin 42. That is, unlike a process in which an opening 45 is formed in the fin 42 so that the tab portion 46 is removed from the fm 42, in this illustrative embodiment, the tab 46 is retained on the fin 42, thereby maintaining or increasing the available surface area of the fin. It will also be appreciated that openings 45 may be formed in any other suitable way, e.g., drilling, die cutting, etc. to allow air to pass through the fin 42.

[0036] The fins 42 formed on a heat exchanger 4 are not limited to the “X” shape shown in FIGS. 2, 4, and 5. Instead, the fins 42 may be arranged in any suitable way, such as that shown in FIGS. 9-12. The fin arrangements may be varied to accommodate different applications, e.g., to provide heat exchangers with different heat transfer capacities. For example, a heat exchanger with one fin 42, as shown in FIG. 9, may have a smaller heat transfer capacity than a heat exchanger having two or more fins, such as that shown in FIG. 10. The heat exchangers may be manufactured to have a desired number or other arrangement of fins, or the heat exchangers may be made so that the fins 42 or selected portions of the fins 42 may be removed from the heat exchanger in the field. For example, heat exchangers may be manufactured in a configuration such as that shown in FIG. 4. One or more of the fins 42 may have perforations, score lines or other features that allow a technician to break away one or more fins, or portions of the fins, from the heat exchanger in the field to form arrangements such as that shown in FIGS. 9, 10 and 12. This may allow a baseboard heating system installer to more easily balance heat output in particular rooms and/or portions of rooms in a manner other than merely shortening the length of a heat exchanger. For example, it may be desirable to provide a long, but relatively low, heat output/unit length capacity system in a long, but narrow hallway so that heat is more evenly distributed in the hallway. By selectively adjusting the number of fins in the heat exchanger, an adjustment in the heat output per unit length of the heat exchanger may be made. Other benefits of the illustrated embodiments may include a lower heat exchanger profile, e.g., a thinner or lower profile heat exchanger, a lower weight or cost heat exchanger, easier cleaning or other processing of the heat exchanger, and so on. For example, the fin arrangements shown in the illustrative embodiments of FIGS. 9-12 may be more resistant to inadvertent bending or other damage as compared to other conventional fin tubes for baseboard heating systems.

[0037] In another aspect of the invention, a housing sections may be secured together with a connector arranged in accordance with the invention. In one illustrative embodiment, a housing section connector includes at least one groove that receives an end of a housing section to connect the housing section to another housing section. The groove may be formed between opposite sidewalls and have a depth so that an end of the housing section may be received into the groove in a direction substantially along the depth of the groove. For example, FIG. 13 shows a side view of a housing connector 3 used to interconnect housing sections in the FIG. 1 embodiment. In this illustrative embodiment, the connector 3 includes a groove 31 that is shaped to match an outer contour of a housing section 2. The groove 31 receives an end of the housing section 2, i.e., the end of housing section 2 may be inserted into the groove 31, and one or more portions in the groove 31 may engage with the received end of the housing section to hold the connector 3 in place on the housing section 2. For example, the connector 3 may be made of, or otherwise include, a resilient material that elastically deforms when the housing section is received into the groove 31. The elastic deformation may allow the connector 3 to frictionally engage the end of the housing section to keep the connector 3 in place. For example, FIG. 14 shows a cross-sectional view of the connector 3 along the line A-A shown in FIG. 13. In this illustrative embodiment, the connector 3 has an approximately H-shaped cross section with grooves 31 on opposite sides of the connector 3 so that housing section end portions may be received in each of the grooves 31 and connected together. In this embodiment, each of the grooves 31 is formed by opposing wall sections 32 and has an approximately U-shaped cross section, although the grooves 31 may be formed in other ways. The width and depth of the groove 31, e.g., the spacing between the wall sections 32 and the height of the wall sections 32, respectively, may be arranged in any suitable way. For example, the groove 31 may be sized so that at least one of the wall sections 32 elastically deforms when a housing section is inserted into the groove 31, e.g., the width of the groove 31 may be made to be at most equal to the thickness of the end of the housing section. This deformation may cause the wall section 32 to better frictionally engage the housing section. Other features may be provided to enhance the engagement between the connector 3 and the housing section, such as bumps or tabs 33. The tabs 33 may include a resilient material so that the tabs 33 deform when the housing is inserted into the groove 31, or may be rigid. The tabs 33 may engage with slots, recessed portions or other features in the housing section. Alternately, the connector 3 may be engaged with a housing section by an adhesive, mechanical fasteners, or other suitable arrangements.

[0038] The connector 3 is not limited to interconnecting housing sections that are substantially aligned along a same line. That is, the connector 3 may form, or otherwise be a part of, an inside or outside corner section like the housing sections 2b and 2c shown in FIG. 1, or may form an end cap like that shown in FIG. 15. The connector 3 is also not limited to being formed from a single material, such as a resilient plastic material, but instead may be formed from a combination of different materials, such as a resilient plastic material used to form the groove 31 and a sheet metal to form other portions of the connector 3. In addition, the groove 31 need not extend continuously and receive an entire end of the housing section like the embodiment shown in FIG. 13. Instead, the groove 31 may be discontinuously formed, e.g., such that the groove 31 includes multiple portions that engage with separate portions of the housing section end, and/or may only receive a portion of the housing section end. For example, one grooved portion may engage with a top section 21 of a housing, another grooved portion may engage with a middle portion of the housing, and a third grooved portion may engage with a bottom portion 22 of the housing.

[0039] In another illustrative embodiment shown in FIG. 16, the connector 3 may be made as a flexible sleeve or cuff into which a housing section end may be inserted. The cuff may be made of a flexible material that approximates the shape of the housing when it is inserted into the groove 31, i.e., inserted into one end of the cuff. Of course, the cuff may be formed of a more stiff material that is pre-formed in the shape of a housing section like the embodiment shown in FIG. 13.

[0040] Another illustrative embodiment of a connector 3 is shown in FIG. 17. This embodiment may be formed in much the same way as that shown in FIGS. 13 and 14, but in this embodiment, one of the wall sections 32 is removed from the FIG. 14 arrangement so that the connector 3 has only one groove 31 and has a “Y”-shaped cross section. That is, the groove 31 on the right side of the connector 3 as shown in FIG. 17 receives and engages with a housing section 2, such as the housing section 2a of FIG. 1. The left side of the connector 3 has only one wall section 32 that overlaps another housing section 2, such as the section 2b in FIG. 1. As a result, the connector 3 may cover the end of the section 2b, but not necessarily engage with the section 2b. This arrangement can allow independent movement of the housing sections 2a and 2b relative to each other without disconnecting the connector 3 from one of the housing sections 2. For example, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the housing section 2a may be pivotally mounted so that a person can lift the housing 2a and expose the heat exchanger 4. With the arrangement shown in FIG. 17, the housing section 2a may be lifted up without interference from the housing section 2b because the connector 3 overlaps the housing section 2b, but does not necessarily engage with the housing section 2b. When the housing section 2a is again pivoted downward and engaged with the heater mount (e.g., the brackets 5), the connector wall section 32 nearest the housing section 2b can again cover the end of the housing section 2b. Although the FIG. 17 embodiment may be used in any arrangement, the FIG. 17 embodiment, may be most useful in configurations such as that shown in FIG. 1 when connecting to inside or outside corner sections or connecting to endcaps.

[0041] While the invention has been described on conjunction with specific embodiments, many alternatives, modifications and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Accordingly, embodiments set forth herein are intended to be illustrative of the various aspects of the invention, not limiting. Various changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.