While forced air is coveted in new homes, it’s common for older homes and buildings to have heating systems like wood stoves, radiators, or baseboard heaters. Unlike natural gas furnaces, baseboard heating is highly efficient, as it converts 100% of its energy into heat. Additionally, baseboard heaters don’t require ductwork, so they’re easy to install along floor molding. If sized correctly, they can be a primary heating source for an appropriately sized room or a supplemental heat source for large ones.
If you don’t want to install new ductwork or prefer zoned heating, baseboard heating allows you to easily control the temperature in each room. However, there are advantages and disadvantages that are important to know before choosing baseboard heaters as a heating source.
𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗜𝘀 𝗮 𝗕𝗮𝘀𝗲𝗯𝗼𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗛𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿?
Baseboard heaters are long modular units installed underneath windows or other areas of high ambient heat loss.
𝗛𝗼𝘄 𝗱𝗼 𝗯𝗮𝘀𝗲𝗯𝗼𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸?
Baseboard heaters have two parts: the thermostat and the heating element. The heating element slowly releases heat into the room. This type of heater doesn’t need ductwork, blowers, or furnaces, but good air circulation is a crucial requirement to make sure these systems deliver heat effectively and efficiently. They should not be positioned hidden behind furniture or other obstructions. To provide optimal heat distribution, baseboard heaters should be installed along exterior walls and below windows. There are two types of electric baseboard heaters: convection and hydronic.
𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗮 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘃𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗯𝗮𝘀𝗲𝗯𝗼𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿?
This baseboard heating doesn’t require a central heating system or ductwork. Convection heaters collect cool air and warm it over electrically heated coils or metal fins. By passive convection, the heated air naturally rises without using a fan to warm the room.
A thermostat, mounted on the wall or the unit itself, controls the unit. Electric baseboard heaters have an on-and-off switch, but you can leave them running at a regular temperature setting. They are available in various sizes and heat capacities, which should be sized according to the space they must heat. Some units can be plugged into a standard electrical outlet.
𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝗮 𝗵𝘆𝗱𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗶𝗰 𝗯𝗮𝘀𝗲𝗯𝗼𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿?
Also known as hot water baseboard heaters, hydronic heaters use hot water to warm copper coils and generate heat. They are typically connected to a home’s central boiler. The boiler heats water using either gas, oil, or electricity. Hot water then runs through pipes into the baseboard heater units. Once cooled, the water returns to the boiler, where it is reheated. However, some hydronic baseboard heaters are self-contained, meaning they have an internal fluid reservoir (water or oil).
Although they take more time to heat up, once hydronic heaters reach the desired temperature, they provide long-lasting heat that remains after you turn off the thermostat.
𝗕𝗮𝘀𝗲𝗯𝗼𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗛𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝘀
𝗭𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴: With a baseboard heater, you can control the temperature of individual rooms. Also, you can quickly turn the unit on and off when rooms are not in use.
𝗘𝗮𝘀𝘆 𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗹𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻: Since they don’t require ductwork, baseboard heaters are easy to install. Mount them to the wall and hardwire them to the home’s electrical lines. Hydronic heaters need tubing to run inside the wall, which makes it more complex to install than a standard convection electrical baseboard.
𝗦𝘂𝗽𝗽𝗹𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗮𝗹 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝘀𝗼𝘂𝗿𝗰𝗲: If you live in an area with freezing winters without proper insulation, baseboard heaters come in handy. They provide a secondary source of heat to supplement central heat or fireplaces.
𝗤𝘂𝗶𝗲𝘁 𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻: Baseboard heaters are quieter than forced-air systems.
𝗘𝗮𝘀𝘆 𝘁𝗼 𝗰𝗹𝗲𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻: You can easily vacuum these heaters on your own. You don’t need a professional to clean the ductwork.
𝗕𝗮𝘀𝗲𝗯𝗼𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗛𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝘀
𝗘𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗻𝘀𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲: Expect higher utility bills than with forced air through an HVAC system.
𝗦𝗮𝗳𝗲𝘁𝘆 𝗵𝗮𝘇𝗮𝗿𝗱: Electric baseboard heaters can get extremely hot. Without proper maintenance and care, they can become a fire hazard. To prevent fire, keep furniture and curtains at least six inches away. Hydronic baseboard heaters don’t get hot enough to start a fire, so they present a significantly reduced fire hazard.
𝗗𝗿𝘆 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝘁: These heaters generate dry heat. It is common for people to develop dry skin, throat, and eyes. To counter dry heat, use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
𝗧𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗿 𝗕𝗲𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗔𝗱𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮 𝗕𝗮𝘀𝗲𝗯𝗼𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗛𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗿
Electric baseboard heaters are a good option for heating older homes that might require retrofitting radiators and newer homes that need an additional heat source. While efficient, baseboard heating can be costly to operate. High utility bills and fire safety are two major areas of concern. To prevent fires and maximize the heating capabilities, don’t block the airway by placing anything in front of the heater, and don’t put anything flammable near the heater.
Vacuum regularly to keep dust, pet hair, and debris away from the heat source. Lastly, stay vigilant to keep small children and pets from burning themselves by touching a convection baseboard heater while it is still hot.
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