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Baseboard heating is quite popular in both old and new homes for various reasons. For instance, it’s relatively easy to install in new builds and retrofit projects. This is because it doesn’t require bulky ductwork to run under floors, above the ceiling, or through walls.
Another notable benefit of baseboard heaters is that they’re quiet and clean. Unlike forced-air systems, they do not blow dust and other airborne pollutants throughout the house.
For those reasons, you can either use baseboard heated as the main or secondary heat source of your home. However, before you add baseboard heating to your house, it’s important to understand what this type of heating system is all about. That’s why in this article, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about baseboard heating!
What’s baseboard heating?
Simply put, baseboard heating is a way of providing heating using baseboard heaters. As the name ‘baseboard’ implies, these heaters are usually installed beneath windows along the bottom of the wall. That way, warm air heated by the equipment counteracts the cold air coming through the window. More importantly, this allows the heat to naturally and slowly rise towards the ceiling starting out along the floor.
One thing you need to note though is that baseboard heaters should be properly fitted with the wall. This helps to prevent a significant loss of air, which can make it a potentially costly way to heat your home.
As mentioned earlier, baseboard heaters don’t blow air like a forced-air heating system. As a result, there is less dust, pet dander, and allergens blowing around your house. Even better, this eliminates the need for air ducts as well as the noise generated by forced-air systems.
Different baseboard heating types
Baseboard heating units can be classified into 2 types’ hydronic and convection heaters. Both options provide the heat you need but in different ways. In addition, each type of baseboard heating has its pros and cons.
1. Hydronic baseboard heaters
Hydronic baseboard heaters are equipped with an internal reservoir of heated fluid that distributes radiant heat. They can either be self-contained units that use electricity to heat the fluid in the internal reservoir or use a central heating boiler to supply warm water. indirectly to generate the system’s heat.
Whichever the case, these types of baseboard heating units are more energy-efficient compared to their convection counterparts. That is because the heated fluid (oil or water) takes longer to cool down even after the system is turned off. Therefore, the fluid will continue radiating heat into the room you’ve installed it in, even after turning off the system. This makes them cheaper to run than electric/ convection systems since they don’t need a constant power supply to maintain the desired temperature level.
On the downside, hydronic baseboard heaters take longer to heat up than electric heaters. For that, they will take a bit longer to reach the desired heat level. In addition, they’re typically more expensive and are available in a smaller range of heat capacities and sizes.
2. Convection baseboard heaters
Convection/ electric baseboard heaters are the most common type of baseboard heating units. They’re designed to regulate the temperature within rooms. More notably, they are commonly used in places where central heating does not reach, like in basements or to supplement HVAC systems.
Each electric baseboard heating unit contains a heating element made of eclectic coils. When you turn on the system, these coils heat up and distribute heat into the room. However, you’ll need an electric baseboard heater thermostat inbuilt into the heater or mounted to the wall to control the amount of heat they disperse.
All in all, the heated air near the baseboard heater rises in the room, while the cooler air is drawn into the bottom of the heating unit. This heat exchange process is known as convection. Also, some heat will radiate from the fins, housing, and pipes.
Unlike hydronic systems, electric baseboard heaters come in a wide range of heat capacities and sizes. Better yet, they are affordable, simple to install, and heat up quickly. Moreover, standard electric baseboard heaters are usually hardwired into the home’s electric system, but some inexpensive models can be plugged into a standard wall outlet.
As for the downside, convection baseboard heaters are considerably less energy efficient than hydronic models. Their heating fins cool down faster after you turn off the heater since they’re exclusively powered by electricity. Therefore, you’ve to keep them on as long as you want to keep them generating heat.
How much does baseboard heating cost?
Both standard electric and hydronic baseboard heaters use the same amount of energy to generate heat. However, hydronic heaters provide more energy savings since they continue to emit heat after you turn them off. Therefore, they don’t have to be on as long to keep your home comfortable.
In terms of efficiency, both types of baseboard heating units are energy efficient, seeing that they convert 100% of the energy to heat. Nonetheless, you’ll spend more money to heat your home with electric models since electricity is more costly per unit than gas. According to the United States Energy Information Administration, the running cost of electric baseboard heaters can be up to 4 times higher than heating your home with a standard gas furnace. This is why most people use baseboard heating as a secondary heat source to supplement other heating options. In addition, baseboard heaters are ideal for zone heating since you can use them to heat individual rooms. Research shows that this will help you save up to 20% of your home’s energy use compared to heating the entire house.
As for the initial cost, electric baseboard heaters are relatively affordable. Their price usually ranges from $100 to $250 per unit depending on the quality and options. On the contrary, hydronic heaters cost about 2 – 4 times as much but are cheap to operate in the long run.
Hydronic Vs Electric baseboard heater: What is the best heating option?
Baseboard heating offers various benefits over other heating methods like forced air units. More notably, both hydronic and electric baseboard heaters will help to keep your rooms comfortable at a fraction of your annual electricity bills.
But if you’re to choose between electric and hydronic baseboard heaters, several factors will come into play. For instance, convection baseboard heaters are ideal for occasionally heating a smaller space.
On the other hand, if you want to use baseboard heating to supplement a heat source or as a primary heat source for a large space, a hydronic system is the better option. Also, if you already have a boiler in your home, you may want to consider a hydronic heater that doesn’t depend on electricity. However, you need to ensure that the boiler has enough BTU capacity to meet the additional demand.
All in all, regardless of the option you choose, the best baseboard heating system will largely depend on your energy-efficiency preferences and budget.