Baseboard heating is often used in older homes without efficient ductwork. Although it’s not as advanced or standard as modern forced-air HVAC systems, baseboard heating is more than worth considering. After all, many people have relied on it for a very long time for several reasons. So how does baseboard heating work?

Baseboard heating works when cold air goes into the floor, gets pulled over heated fins, and is released as warm air into the room. Then, the room is filled with warm air as heat naturally rises.

In this article, I’ll explain how baseboard heating works in more detail, whether you should try it, and why it might be better than other HVAC alternatives for some homeowners.

How Does Baseboard Heating Work?

Baseboard heating works by running cold air through a series of heating elements. The elements let the warm air flow through vents. Since heat naturally rises, it warms the immediate area.

Baseboard heater installed on hard flooring
Baseboard heaters can run on gas, electricity, or, as seen above, hot water.

You can install baseboard heating in a few different ways:

Hot water baseboard heaters require plumbing to connect to a boiler.

Electric baseboard heaters connect to a nearby power source.

Gas baseboard heaters need a gas line and a power line.

You have your pick of types of baseboard heaters. All of these systems need electrical hookups.

However, electric baseboard heaters don’t require additional plumbing or gas pipes. They use more electricity than the other variants since it’s the primary fuel source.

Most people prefer electric baseboard heaters because they’re easier to install.

The Pros and Cons of Baseboard Heating

Baseboard heating has plenty of benefits and downsides that you should consider before bringing it into your home.

Any form of heating will be semi-costly, even if you only install baseboard heaters in a couple of rooms.

Furthermore, you must consider how baseboard heaters affect your home’s structural integrity.

Getting the right heating system is paramount for those living in cold climates.

However, even if you live in decent weather conditions, you should still consider the ups and downs of baseboard heating systems.

The following is a breakdown of the pros and cons of baseboard heating.

The Advantages of Baseboard Heating

Baseboard heating systems prevent your floors from getting too cold. They’re lower than any other heating system. The warm air starts at the lowest point in the room, so you don’t have to worry about walking on cold floors. You can make this even better by getting area rugs to absorb heat.

● They’re much cheaper to install than most HVAC heating systems. Installation costs are lower because there’s no need to add a series of ductwork. You won’t also need to hire technicians for installation. In fact, many people install baseboard heating units themselves.

Baseboard heating is extremely quiet. It utilizes heat’s natural tendency to go upward. Unlike forced-air HVAC systems that blow a lot of hot air and vibrate while heating up, baseboard heating doesn’t need internal fans and other moving parts that can get noisy.

● They’re very easy to install. All you have to do is find the proper location for the electric baseboard heater, then plug it into an outlet or wire it directly into the wall. Make sure you have a dedicated circuit breaker if you use multiple baseboard heaters in the same room. This will prevent the breaker from tripping.

You don’t have to worry about maintaining ducts, preventing leaks, or spending on lengthy cleaning processes. There are unique advantages to forced-air heating, but it takes a lot of time and effort to maintain. Baseboard heating should be near the top of your list if you’re looking for a simpler heating solution.

Baseboard heater with access cover taken off and placed against a white wall
Installing a baseboard heater isn’t complex. You can even do it yourself!

The Disadvantages of Baseboard Heating

Baseboard heating usually costs more to run compared to forced-air heaters. This is because they’re not as energy-efficient, which means they can cost 1,000 watts per hour or more. On the other hand, furnaces and other central heating systems typically use 200 to 400 watts hourly (or less).

Baseboard heaters must follow all sorts of placement regulations to keep them away from obstacles. For instance, they can’t be placed directly under electrical outlets, within the proximity of an opening door, or behind any piece of furniture. Most building codes have window distance restrictions, too.

Baseboard heaters don’t have as many outputs as ventilated heating systems. This is because all of the warm air comes from the same location. In contrast, forced-air ventilated systems push air through a series of ducts that move hot air into almost every room in your home, making them exponentially more effective.

These units tend to cause wear and tear on painted walls, wallpaper, and more. In addition, the overwhelming amount of heat directly applied on hardwood floors, vinyl planks, wallpaper, and old paint can cause long-lasting effects. Always ensure your baseboard heaters are mounted above the ground and don’t face downward.

These heaters are often in the way, bulky, and not too visually appealing. While this might not be a downside for some people, it’s worth mentioning that having two or more baseboard heaters in a room dramatically reduces the area you can use to walk, place furniture, and more.

An electric baseboard heater along a wall joint
Baseboard heaters can degrade the quality of wallpaper or paint.

Is Baseboard Heating Better Than Forced-Air Heating?

Baseboard heating is better than forced-air heating for smaller, shorter rooms. However, it could be more effective in larger spaces, such as living and family rooms.

You can mix baseboard heating and forced-air heating by tying them to the same thermostat. This will let you choose when and how to heat the building.

If you’re thinking about switching to baseboard switching from forced-air heating, consider these five variables:

The biggest expense of forced-air heating is the initial installation process. However, if you already have everything installed (i.e., the ducts, vents, etc.), it’s worth keeping the system in place.

Baseboard heating can be very effective for homes with random cold drafts but otherwise mild to moderate in temperature. In other words, if you live in a comfortable location where you rarely have to use HVAC appliances, you could opt for baseboard heating.

Make sure you have room for a dedicated circuit breaker if you want to use baseboard heating. While forced-air heating also requires a dedicated breaker, every two or more baseboard heaters usually need their own circuit breaker to prevent them from tripping.

Baseboard heating could be the better solution for tiny homes. Suppose you have a house or cabin around 500 square feet (46.45 square meters) or less. In that case, baseboard heating typically makes more sense than a forced-air heating system. One baseboard heater would almost always suffice. You could supplement the heat with a space heater.

Baseboard heaters are quickly becoming less popular. A reduction in demand means they’re not produced as often. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who works on baseboard heaters if you don’t live near a big city. You’ll need to find an electrician or HVAC technician who’s been in the industry for a long time if your baseboard heater needs servicing.

Baseboard heating is rarely better than forced-air heating, but it has advantages. If you’re building a new home and it’s small, it could be the best solution for you. However, I’d always recommend using a forced-air heating system if you have existing ductwork.

Is Baseboard Heating Outdated?

Baseboard heating is outdated to most people because there are many other ways to heat a home without these bulky systems. Baseboard heating is less energy-efficient, effective, reliable, and long-lasting than forced-air heating. It’s comparable to modern space heaters.

So, why do many people believe baseboard heaters are a thing of the past?

Air 1 Heating and Cooling claim baseboard heaters can reduce your home’s value. The next owner will likely have to replace all the baseboard heaters, add new ductwork, and install forced-air heating and cooling appliances.

Most homeowners believe baseboard heaters look tacky. They’re never flush with the room, which means they stand out more than anything else. A clunky baseboard heater is obvious in a room full of rugs, furniture, and other comfortable belongings.

They’re often seen in older homes and cabins. These buildings don’t have the structural integrity and layout to maintain ductwork and other forced-air systems (including central heating HVAC appliances). People associate baseboard heaters with old structures and hotels.

There’s no doubt that baseboard heaters are likely on their way out as technology advances. However, these systems remain viable options for people who want to heat their homes, offices, and more.

If you’re looking to save money and heat a room without too much work, a baseboard heater is not too outdated for your needs.

Final Thoughts

Baseboard heating might not be as popular as forced-air heating, but it’s still a decent option for some people. It can be much cheaper to install, not to mention the warmth near your feet, rather than walking on cold floors!


Air 1 Heating & Cooling: 4 Reasons Why You Should Replace Your Baseboard Heaters | American Family Insurance: Electric Baseboard Heating Pros and Cons | John C. Flood: The Pros and Cons of Baseboard Heat

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