Most houses have that room that just doesn’t seem to get as warm as the rest of the house. The one that’s either too far from the furnace to receive sufficient warm air or lacking in insulation. While adjusting the dampers in the ductwork or redirecting warm air to the room by closing off vents can help, these options typically aren’t sufficient to heat up a cold room.
There is another solution. Adding a baseboard heater to a home’s heating system can help add supplemental heat to a cold room or even heat an entire room on its own. Baseboard heating systems come in both electric models that radiate heat from metal fins and hydronic heaters that warm liquid contained in a metal tube.
This guide will examine these two different types of baseboard heaters as well as a host of other important features to consider when shopping for the best baseboard heater to warm a room.
- BEST OVERALL: KING 6K2415BW K Series Baseboard Heater
- RUNNER-UP: Fahrenheat FBE15002 Portable Electric Hydronic Heater
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Comfort Zone CZ600 Indoor 1500 Watt Electric Heater
- BEST FOR LARGE ROOMS: Cadet 96″ Electric Baseboard Heater
- ALSO CONSIDER: Marley 2512NW 120V 2′ Baseboard Heater
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Baseboard Heater
While the size and heat output of a baseboard heater are critical attributes to consider when shopping for a baseboard heater, other features are also important, including thermostat type, integrated versus stand-alone baseboard heaters, and ease of installation.
Baseboard heaters generally use between 400 and 2,000 watts of power. The more power the heater uses, the greater amount of heat it can put out. Baseboard heaters either require a 240-volt, 208-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, which is 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 for longer even after the thermostat clicks off, making hydronic baseboard heaters more efficient than electric models. However, since it takes time to heat up the liquid in the tube, hydronic baseboard heaters take longer to heat up than electric models.
Integrated or Standalone
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. The 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 of 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 $75 and $250 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 baseboard heaters 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 baseboard heaters 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 baseboard heaters 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.
A simple design, inconspicuous appearance, and compatibility with a broad range of thermostats make this electric baseboard heater from King a worthy choice for adding supplemental heat to a room. This 1,500-watt heater puts out 5,100 BTUs of heat, which it releases through a wide vent that runs along the top of the unit. With its sturdy steel construction, it can withstand bumps from shoes and vacuum cleaners without denting.
A sleek design and two color options—white and almond—help the heater blend nicely into most room designs. This baseboard heater also works with standard analog thermostats as well as higher-end WiFi-capable programmable thermostats. The King baseboard heater measures 6 feet long and requires a hardwired 240-volt connection.
This baseboard heater 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 at the base and top of the unit allow for excellent airflow past the heating element.
At 45 inches long and a weight of 12 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 control. This heater plugs into a standard outlet via a 120-volt plug.
Adding warmth to that cold room in the house doesn’t have to be a major investment or require complicated hardwiring. This model 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. There’s also no need to purchase a separate thermostat. The Comfort Zone uses an analog dial mounted on the side of the unit. 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 safety features include a tip-over safety switch and a housing that keeps the exterior cool.
At 8 feet long, this multi-watt baseboard heater is well suited for distributing heat around larger rooms. Baseboard heaters are 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 baseboard heater 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 watts or a 208-volt power source for 1,500 watts. It also requires a thermostat, which is sold separately.
This simple baseboard heater is a great option for providing supplemental heat to rooms that get short shrift from a home’s central heating system. At just 2 feet long, this heater takes up very little space, but it still pumps out 400 watts of heat, making it ideal for rooms that need a heating boost.
The heater is hardwired to a 120-volt power source and requires the separate purchase of a thermostat. With its steel construction and a powder-coated finish, this heater can endure abuse without denting or scratching. An overheat function automatically turns off the unit to prevent overheating if the air vents become blocked.
FAQs About Baseboard Heaters
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 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.
Baseboard heaters can infuse extra warmth into chilly rooms. Sometimes these rooms lack insulation or are just too far away from the furnace. Either way, they need help staying toasty during cold months. Whether permanently installed or freestanding, hydronic or electric, these heaters come in a variety of sizes to help keep every room comfortable all year round.