Many homes have that one room that just never gets as warm as the rest of the house—the one that’s either too far from the furnace to receive sufficient warm air or is lacking in insulation. Adjusting the dampers in the ductwork or redirecting warm air to the room by closing off vents may help, but these options typically aren’t sufficient to properly heat up a cold room.
A better solution is adding a baseboard heater to a home’s heating system to provide supplemental heat to a cold room or even heat the entire room on its own. Baseboard heating systems come in both electric models that radiate heat from metal fins and hydronic heaters that warm up liquid contained in a metal tube. This guide examines these two different types of units and a host of other important features to consider when shopping for the best baseboard heater.
- BEST OVERALL: Fahrenheat FBE15002 Portable Electric Heater
- BEST VALUE: Comfort Zone Low Profile Baseboard Digital CZ650
- BEST DESIGN: Lasko 5624 Low Profile Room Space Heater
- BEST FOR SMALL ROOMS: Cadet Manufacturing F Series Baseboard Heater 4F1000W
- BEST FOR LARGE ROOMS: Cadet 96 in. 2000/2500-Watt Electric Baseboard Heater
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Baseboard Heater
The size and heat output of a baseboard heater are critical attributes to consider when shopping for a baseboard heater. Additional important features include thermostat type, integrated versus stand-alone, and ease of installation.
Baseboard heaters use between 400 and 1,500 watts of power. The more power the heater uses, the greater amount of heat it can put out. Baseboard heaters require either a 240-volt or 120-volt connection for power. Units mounted to the wall are typically hardwired, while portable baseboard heaters have plugs that use a standard 12-volt outlet.
A 1,500-watt heater is capable of heating a room up to 150 square feet, equivalent to a 10- by 15-foot room with an 8-foot ceiling. Less powerful models are sufficient for supplementing the heat in a room that is generated by a central furnace. While a 1,500-watt heater is capable of heating a small room all by itself, keep in mind that using an electric baseboard heater as a sole source of heat is much more expensive than using a central heating system.
Electric or Hydronic
Electric baseboard heaters heat up metal fins that warm air in the room as it passes through the heater, whereas a hydronic baseboard heater heats up fluid in an enclosed pipe that runs through the heater.
Electric baseboard heaters heat up fast but cool very quickly once the thermostat switches off. Hydronic heaters are more efficient because the heated fluid they use to radiate heat retains its warmth longer than metal fins. This means they continue to deliver heat even after the thermostat clicks off, making hydronic baseboard heaters more energy efficient than electric models. However, since it takes time to heat up the liquid in the tube, hydronic baseboard heaters take longer to warm up than electric models.
Integrated or Stand-Alone
Integrated baseboard heaters mount to the wall of a room, becoming permanent fixtures. They are typically located under windows where they can warm cool air that falls from the window above and recirculate it throughout the room. Integrated baseboard heaters are typically hardwired, so they usually require a professional electrician for installation.
Stand-alone heaters have feet that allow them to stand upright with no wall mounting or installation required. They typically use 120-volt plugs and are lightweight enough to allow the user to move them from room to room.
Integrated baseboard heaters usually require the user to purchase a thermostat controller to go with the unit, which increases the overall cost. Some electric baseboard heaters have an analog dial on the unit that allows the user to set a temperature from level 1 to 10. This can make setting the baseboard heater to the desired temperature a bit of a mystery. Higher-end baseboard heaters connect to wall-mounted thermostats that allow the user to set the thermostat to an actual temperature.
Installing a hardwired baseboard heater requires the user to understand voltage, circuits, and even local electric codes. The installation process involves adding a new circuit to the home’s circuit panel and routing power to the location of the baseboard heater. Installation also requires specialized tools, such as a voltage meter.
Failing to properly wire a baseboard heater could create a fire hazard or a risk of electric shock. With all these factors in mind, it’s best to hire a licensed electrician to install a hardwired electric baseboard heater. When considering the expense of a baseboard heater, keep in mind the cost of installation. Electrician labor rates range between $50 and $100 an hour depending on the market, according to HomeAdvisor.
Stand-alone units require no installation, as they use a standard 120-volt plug and outlet for power.
Maintaining a baseboard heater is a necessary part of making sure it works efficiently and safely. Most units have steel covers that help protect the vulnerable metal fins or metal tubing that distributes heat from the unit. Since baseboard heaters are located near the floor, over time they are inundated with dust and dirt. Most models have removable covers that allow the user to access these heating elements and clean them with a vacuum cleaner brush attachment.
Baseboard heaters have built-in safety mechanisms to prevent them from overheating and creating a fire hazard. All baseboard heaters have a safety switch that automatically shuts the unit off if the vents are blocked, which could cause the unit to overheat. Stand-alone units have tip-over safeties that shut the unit off in the event it topples over, as well as an automatic shutoff if the unit begins overheating. Baseboard heaters also have metal housings that create a buffer to prevent people and objects from coming into contact with the heating element.
Our Top Picks
The list below narrows the field to some of the top baseboard heaters on the market. These heaters feature durable steel construction, powerful heat outputs, and safety features that reduce the risk of fire.
This baseboard heater from Fahrenheat combines hydronic heat with a portable design and uses 1,500 watts of power to warm a tube filled with a heat-transfer liquid. This allows it to better retain heat, reducing the amount of power it needs to operate. Two wide vents—one at the base and one at the top of the unit—allow for excellent airflow past the heating element.
At 46 inches long and weighing 9 pounds, this heater is large enough to warm a medium-size room while still being small enough to transport from room to room. Controls include a low and high setting, and an analog dial for adjustments. This heater plugs into a standard outlet via a 120-volt plug.
- Type: Portable stand-alone
- Power: 1,500 watts
- Length: 46 inches
- Lightweight and portable
- Double vent provides better airflow
- Ideal for small- to medium-size rooms
Adding warmth to that cold room in the house doesn’t have to be a major investment or require complicated hardwiring. This baseboard heater from Comfort Zone costs less than half the price of other models while still pumping out 1,500 watts of heat. It also plugs into a standard 120-volt outlet, so there’s no need to hire an electrician for installation.
Dent-proof ends protect the unit from errant kicks, and there’s also no need to purchase a separate thermostat, as the Comfort Zone unit uses a digital panel on its side. At just 30 inches long and 10 inches high, this stand-alone baseboard heater is small enough to move from room to room if needed. Extra features include a tip-over safety switch and a housing that keeps the exterior cool.
- Type: Portable stand-alone
- Power: 750 or 1,500 watts
- Length: 30 inches
- Compact design
- Quiet operation
- Easy-to-use controls
- Requires lots of electricity
Most baseboard heaters require the user to purchase a compatible wall thermostat to control the unit, which adds to the overall expense, or settle for imprecise analog dial controls. This heater from Lasko offers the best of both worlds, with digital controls on the heater that allow the user to set the thermostat to a specific temperature by pressing a plus or minus button. It also includes a convenient timer that automatically shuts off the heater after one to eight hours.
With carrying handles molded into the sides, a length of just under 40 inches, and a weight of only 10 pounds, this space heater is designed to be moved easily from room to room. Safety features include a tip-over switch and overheat protection. This standalone unit uses a standard 120-volt plug for power.
- Type: Portable stand-alone
- Power: 1500 watts
- Length: 39.75 inches
- Sleek, low-profile design
- Digital thermostat controls on unit
- Tip-over and overheat protection
- Built-in carry handles
- Not as long as other units
Providing supplemental heat for a smaller space doesn’t require a hefty 6-foot-long 1,500-watt heater. With its compact size and lower wattage output, this electric baseboard heater from Cadet Manufacturing is ideal for smaller rooms. At just 4 feet long, it’s ideal for mounting under a bedroom window. It produces a maximum of 1,000 watts of heat, enough to warm up to 100 square feet.
A simple streamlined design and white color allow it to blend in with a room’s decor. Steel construction makes it resistant to dents from accidental kicks or bumps from vacuum cleaners. The heater uses a 240-volt connection, so it must be hardwired and requires the purchase of a thermostat.
- Type: Built-in
- Power: 750 or 1,000 watts
- Length: 48.3 inches
- Low-profile design
- Easy to install
- 2 power options
- Requires hardwiring and thermostat installation
At 8 feet long, this multi-watt baseboard heater from Cadet is well suited for distributing heat around larger rooms. Baseboard heaters are often susceptible to all manner of abuse from feet and other obstacles due to their position on the floor. With its 24-gauge-steel housing, this model is built to endure potential dents from shoes and vacuum cleaners. The housing has a powder-coated finish that resists scratches and chips to the paint.
Nylon bushings on the heater help eliminate noises as the heater warms and the metal expands. This heater must be hardwired to a 240-volt power source for 2,000/2,500 watts or a 208-volt power source for 1,500/1,875 watts. It also requires a thermostat (sold separately).
- Type: Built-in
- Power: 2,000 or 2,500 watts
- Length: 96 inches
- Durable steel construction
- Scratch and chip resistant
- Includes noise-reduction features
- Required thermostat sold separately
- Must be hardwired
Shoppers looking for a reliable heater that is both lightweight and powerful should consider the Fahrenheat baseboard heater. For a more budget-friendly option, the Comfort Zone baseboard heater is worth a look. It features a compact design and an easy-to-use digital control panel.
How We Chose the Best Baseboard Heaters
We collected our top picks for baseboard heaters in an effort to provide shoppers with options in terms of power, length, and type of heater. We made sure to offer both portable units as well as built-ins. We also included various lengths, from 30 inches all the way up to 8 feet, depending on the size of room requiring heat.
When gathering these recommended products, we only considered models from top manufacturers that use high-quality, durable materials, since baseboard heater units are known to take the occasional—and accidental—kick from nearby users.
If you have questions about how efficient baseboard heaters are or what size heater to purchase for your home, read on for answers.
Q: How do I size a baseboard heater?
The general rule of thumb for sizing an electric baseboard heater is to have 10 watts of electric heating for every square foot in a room. Using that equation, a 100-square-foot room should have a heater using at least 1,000 watts to adequately heat it. Keep in mind that a baseboard heater can be significantly smaller if it’s supplementing a room that is already heated by a central furnace.
Q: Are new baseboard heaters more efficient?
Since all-electric baseboard heaters convert 100 percent of the electricity they use into heat, purchasing a newer baseboard heater won’t make it more efficient than an older one.
Q: Do baseboard heaters use a lot of electricity?
While baseboard heaters are 100 percent efficient at turning electricity into heat, that doesn’t mean baseboard heaters are energy-efficient sources of heat, as the power plants generating the electricity they use are typically inefficient.
In fact, an electric baseboard heater can cost as much as four times more than a standard gas furnace to heat an entire home, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Q: How many square feet does a baseboard heater heat?
It depends on the wattage of the baseboard heater. Most baseboard heaters use 1,500 watts, which is large enough to heat a 150-square-foot space.
Q: Can I put furniture against a baseboard heater?
A baseboard heater typically needs about a foot of clearance from furniture to avoid creating a fire hazard. In general, nothing should restrict the flow of hot air around a baseboard heater to prevent it from overheating.