Baseboard Heater Choices

A baseboard heater.

Today's technology continues to provide better options for home climate control comfort, especially when it comes to baseboard heater choices. Depending upon the geographical location of your home a centrally vented heating system may not always be your best choice.

You see, a central heating unit is just that, central to the entire house, with no individual room controls. Baseboard heating systems provide room to room control, so if that spare bedroom hasn't seen many guests for quite some time, there is no reason to waste energy by sending it unused and unneeded heat. Baseboard heaters provide the luxury of pick and choose a room, climate control. There are two main types on the market today that apply to specific, best use applications.

Electric Baseboard Heater

Electric baseboard heaters are easy to install and perfect for homes that need supplemental room heating. These units are attached to a baseboard area on a wall central to the room and near an electric outlet. Directly under a window is often the preferred location since it will compensate for cold air spillage that may be coming in through an older or poorly insulated window.

The electric baseboard heating system is simple. When turned on and the attached thermostat is set, the air near the floor is pulled up through the unit. It is in then heated and blown out through a top vent. This process, known as the convection-panel system, will continue until the floor air is as warm as the heated air is pushed out. When the intake air matches that of the thermostat it will automatically shut off and remain off until the thermostat triggers the process to start all over again.

Hydronic Baseboard Heater

Not as easy to install and as the name implies, this system uses circulating water as its heating source. It requires a boiler, heating units, usually made of copper or cast iron or tubing, piping, pressure reducing valves, circulators, and thermostats.

Unlike the electric baseboard system, this system can only update the dated boiler systems already existing in an older home. They can also be installed when in the process of constructing a new home, but the cost of converting a home would be prohibitive to most homeowners.

The hydronic baseboard heating system provides discretionary room to room heating but uses a radiant system rather than the forced air convection system of the electric unit. It heats by using rays rather than waves. Step out from under the shade of a tree on a hot, 105-degree day and that blast of heat you feel is radiant heat. The hydronic heating system delivers heat to a room in the same way. No forced air, just warm radiant heat.

Some new custom-designed homes are installing hydronic heat systems to run through the floors and walls along with baseboard units to keep feet warm and walls providing extra insulating warmth.