Q&A: What is Baseboard Heating?

From on June 09, 2008 in Air Conditioning & Heating

baseboard heaterBaseboard heaters are essentially room-by-room heaters. They are fairly small units, anywhere from three to ten feet long, but only protrude about three inches from the wall. Baseboard heating works in one of two ways: convection or thermal. Most baseboard heaters work by convection. Hydronic baseboard heaters, in which the heating element is immersed in a heat transfer fluid sealed in a copper tube, are also available.

The advantages of baseboard heating are several.

  • They require little space and no ductwork.
  • They are easily installed over any surface, including carpet.
  • They are quiet and can be controlled by thermostat.
  • They heat each room separately, thus saving energy by not heating unused rooms. Because of this last benefit, baseboard heating is most common in large, group residential buildings, such as retirement homes, dormitories, apartments, etc.

Most baseboard heaters are electric, with heating elements encased in metal pipes that are surrounded by aluminum fins and run the length of the unit. Warm air heated by the unit rises into the room and cooler air is then drawn up into the bottom of the heater. For this reason baseboard heaters are always installed at least three-quarters of an inch from the flooring. Baseboard heaters are usually installed underneath windows where the rising, heated air counteracts the cool air from the window. Electric heaters convert nearly 100% of energy generated by electricity into heat. However, according to the DOE, most electricity is produced by oil, gas, or coal generators, and these convert only about 30% of the fuel’s energy into electricity. That being said, electric heat is often more expensive than gas, propane, or oil furnaces.

One possible use for baseboard heating is in a home addition, especially a small one such as a sun room or bedroom, as it may not be possible or cost effective to run the ductwork from the existing system out to the addition. Talk to your contractor about your options.

image from Dimplex