How to Calculate the right electric baseboard heater size 

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right electric baseboard heater size

Baseboard heating is one of the most efficient and easiest ways to add a supplemental heat source to a room that isn’t connected to your home’s existing HVAC system. For instance, you can use them when converting a basement/ attic into a living space or building a new addition. 

Like any other heating system, it’s important to choose the right size of baseboard heater to provide adequate heat to the room. Choosing a unit that is too large will lead to energy wastage, while a small heater will not heat the room properly. Even better, a properly sized baseboard heater will maintain a comfortable temperature in your home and help you save a lot of money on operating and installation costs in the long run. 

Unfortunately, if you’re buying your first baseboard heater, you probably don’t know how to calculate the right size of an electric baseboard heater. Well, don’t worry! In this guide, I’ll show you some simple formulas you can use to determine the number and size of baseboard heaters that will adequately heat your home! 

How do Baseboard Heaters Work?  

For starters, an electric baseboard heater features an electrical heating element mounted at the bottom of walls near the floor level, usually over the baseboard. They’re often hardwired into existing electrical wiring, which is usually routed to the main service panel through wall cavities. However, some units can be connected to standard electric outlets for portability and easy installation. Portable baseboard heaters are recommended for temporary use, while wall-mounted units are ideal for permanent use as they’re more efficient. 

Baseboard heaters either produce heat through hydronic or convection processes. Convection units use heated metal fins to heat the air near the floor, which then rises and spreads throughout the room. On the other hand, hydronic baseboard heaters have an electrical heating element that heats an internal liquid reservoir surrounded by metal fins, spreading radiant heat into the space.

In addition, electric baseboard heaters are either available in 120-volt or 240-volt models. The 240-volt models require 2 circuits instead of one but are more efficient in terms of energy use than the 120-volt units. 

Electric Baseboard Heater Size 

As you calculate the quantity and right size of an electric baseboard heater needed to heat a particular space, there are some important factors you need to consider. They include; 

  • Size/ square footage of the room you want to heat. 
  • Determining how well insulated the room is before you calculate the right baseboard heater side to heat the space.
  • Check the amperage and voltage of the baseboard heater. 

With that in mind, let’s look at the 3 different methods you can use to calculate the right wattage and size of your electric baseboard heater! 

1. Calculate the required baseboard heater wattage 

The easiest method to determine how much electric baseboard heater wattage you need is to calculate the square footage of the room. Next, multiply the square footage of the room by 10 watts to get a baseline wattage requirement. 

How Much Baseboard Heat do I need per Square Foot? Typically, electric heaters require about 10 watts per sq. footage of space to heat. Therefore, a 100 sq. ft room would require a 1000-watt baseboard heater as its primary heat source. But if you want to heat a larger room, you might want to buy more than one heater.

For instance, if you want to heat a 12 x 12 ft bedroom, the space has a square footage of 144 sq. ft. Multiplying this figure by 10 watts, shows that you need a heater wattage of 1440W to supply adequate heat for the space. 

Note, this method assumes that the room uses a modern construction technique with a typical 8-ft ceiling, wall, & floor insulation. So, if your room differs from these specifications, you should make the following adjustments; 

  • Add 25% and 50% more wattage for 10-ft- and 12-ft ceilings respectively. 
  • Multiply the square footage by 12.5 watts instead of 10 watts in an older home and by 7.5 watts in an ultra-insulated home. 

In our case, assuming that the room has normal specifications, the required wattage is 1440 watts. This means that you can use two 750W or one 1500W electric baseboard heater to adequately heat the room. 

2. Calculate the required baseboard heater length 

This approach involves using an industry-standard heating ratio to estimate how long your 240V electric baseboard heater should be. In essence, a 240V baseboard heater produces about 250 watts per linear foot. So, to calculate the total length of the baseboard heater, divide the total watts required by 250 watts per linear foot. For instance, if your room has a wattage requirement of 1000 watts, dividing that number by 250 watts/ linear foot, will give you a total baseboard heater length of 4 ft. 

However, with this method, you have to calculate the room’s total wattage requirement first by determining the total square footage. Next, multiply the total square footage of the room by 9 watts per sq foot. Lastly, apply these correction factors to the base wattage depending on the unique conditions of the room; 

  • Add 10% of the total wattage for each exterior door, exterior wall, and window. 
  • Add 10% of the total wattage if the space below the room is uninsulated 
  • Add 10% if the ceilings are taller than 8 ft. 

Using the same room dimensions (12 X 12 ft) we mentioned above, if it has one exterior wall and 2 windows, the total wattage requirement will be around 1684.8W. That is; 

Total square footage for the room ; 12 X 12 = 144 sq. ft. 

Multiply the square footage by 9 watts per sq ft; 144 x 9 watts = 1296 watts 

Add 20% for 2 windows ; 1296 + (20% X 1296) = 1555.2 watts 

Add 10% for 1 exterior wall; 1555.2 + (10% x 1296) = 1684.8 watts 

Next, divide 1684.8 W by 250 watts/ linear foot. This will give you a total baseboard heater length of 6.7 ft, meaning you need a 7 ft long baseboard heater after rounding up. However, standard electric baseboard heaters aren’t available in this length since most options are usually 36” and 48” long. So, in that case, you’ll probably need multiple units. 

3. Using the manufacturer’s recommended baseboard heater wattage 

Most manufacturers of electric baseboard heaters provide a table that you can use to estimate the right size of your baseboard heating system. However, these tables usually assume that your house has a standard ceiling height and a standard amount of insulation. For that reason, it’s always good to install slightly more wattage for your baseboard heater than recommended. 

That said, the tables of most electric baseboard heater manufacturers have the following recommended wattages; 

100 15A 900
150 15A 1350
200 15A 1800
300 15A 2700
400 20A 3600
500 30A 4500
800 40A 7200
1000 50A 9000

How to calculate the right size of hydronic (hot-water) baseboard heaters 

As mentioned earlier, hot water (hydronic) baseboard heater uses radiated heat from heated water to warm the entire room. In essence, they work the same as older cast iron radiators, only that they take up less space. 

Calculating the size of hot water baseboard heaters doesn’t involve determining the physical dimensions of the units. Instead, you’re calculating the required heat output, which is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs)

BTU simply refers to the amount of heat needed to increase the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1 deg F. Although a baseboard heater heats the air, and not water, BTU is the standard way of measuring heating capacity. Also, it’s a great way to compare the effectiveness of various heater types, helping you choose the best heater source for you with ease. 

Once you determine your home’s BTU requirements, you can easily determine the number and size of water-based baseboard heaters you need for your room. Here are the steps you need to follow; 

  • Calculate the room’s cubic footage 

Measure the length, width, and height of the room you want to install the hydronic baseboard heater. Multiply these numbers together to get the cubic footage of the room. 

  • Estimate the room’s BTU requirements 

Each room requires about 25 BTUs per cubic foot. So, multiply the room’s cubic footage by 25BTU to estimate the room’s BTU requirements. 

  • Account for insulation 

Insulation reduces the amount of heat escaping from your home. If your home has moderate to fair insulation, add 25 BTUs per cubic foot to your home’s estimated BTU requirements. However, if your home has no or poor insulation, add 75 BTUs per cubic ft. But if the room has excellent insulation, you don’t have to add any additional BTUs. 

  • Calculate the hydronic baseboard heater’s EDR

Hydronic baseboard heaters are rated in Equivalent Direct Radiation (EDR). To calculate the heater’s EDR, Divide the total number of BTU requirements by 170. That is because a water-based baseboard heater must produce 1 EDR for every 170 BTUs needed to heat the room. 

  • Choose the right hydronic baseboard heater for your home 

After determining the right hydronic baseboard heater size for your home, look for the best option available. Typically, you should choose a baseboard heater that will heat the space of your room efficiently and effectively. 

Final Word 

Hopefully, after reading this article, you now know how to calculate the right electric baseboard heater size. As you’ve seen, there are simple methods you can use to determine the wattage requirements for your baseboard heater. One thing you need to note though is that one thermostat can only handle a maximum of 3,800 watts. However, if you’re not sure about the exact amount of baseboard heating needed for a room, contact a local heating contractor. The same case applies when you’re dealing with a 240V baseboard heating since it’s beyond what most DIYers can safely handle. A professional will check the main electrical panel in your home to ensure that your heaters have the adequate electrical power needed for safe operation. 

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