The best baseboard heater
If your existing heating system isn't keeping you warm enough this winter, a baseboard heater may be the best way to ward off the chill. You can add one to nearly any room in your home to create heating zones that allow you to lower the central thermostat and just heat the area that needs it. A baseboard heater can also work well in rooms where you may not be able to add ductwork or pipes for a central heating system -- you only have to plug the unit into an outlet or connect it to existing wiring.
Our buying guide has tips and information to help you find the best baseboard heater for your home. We've also included some specific product recommendations, including our top pick from Fahrenheat, which is perfect for homes with children and pets and doesn't send dust and allergens through the air the way other heaters can.
Considerations when choosing baseboard heaters
Home and room size
To make sure that a baseboard heater is the best investment for your heating needs, it's important to consider the size of your home. If you live in a large house with some rooms that aren't used often, a baseboard heater is a convenient option, since you can use it to heat only the rooms you frequently use, turning down the central heating in other rooms. In a smaller house, a baseboard heater may not be as good an option since most of the rooms probably see regular use.
The size of the room is also a key factor. Baseboard heaters are better for large, drafty rooms because these spaces typically don't have enough ventilation to receive adequate heat in cold weather. Baseboard heaters provide additional heat to make the room more comfortable.
Number of windows
Baseboard heaters are a good fit for rooms with several windows. Large windows can bring down the temperature of a room in a hurry if they aren't sealed properly.
A room's flooring can also play a role in how warm or cold it is. Rooms with carpeting or area rugs tend to be warmer because of the added insulation a carpet provides. Hardwood floors aren't as successful as blocking the cold as carpeting, but they're more effective than linoleum or tile. If you have a room with linoleum or tile flooring that's always cold, a baseboard heater can definitely take the chill out of the space.
Electric vs. electric hydronic
Electric baseboard heaters rely on electric resistance to generate heat. They have heating coils inside that warm the air and push it outward, then it rises in the room. Electric models also draw the room's cold air in and heat it before returning it to the room. They're usually pretty affordable, don't require much maintenance, and are easy to install, but they can be a danger to small children and pets because they get hot.
Electric hydronic baseboard heaters are also powered by electricity, which heats up a reservoir of water inside the heater. The water then moves through interior tubes to generate heat for the room. It can maintain its heat for longer periods than the metal components of basic electric baseboard heaters. This allows electric hydronic models to operate more efficiently and inexpensively. They aren't as much of a fire risk as electric models, either.
Their one drawback is that they require more time to warm up than an all-electric heater.
Heat output in electric baseboard heaters is measured in wattage. For most situations, you need 10 watts per square foot of the room. That means for an 8 x 10 foot room (which totals 80 square feet), you need an 800-watt baseboard heater to heat it effectively. It's a good idea to get slightly more watts than you need, so you can be sure your space is warm enough.
Baseboard heaters cost between $30 and $200. Small all-electric heaters can run from $30 to $50, while higher-quality electric baseboard heaters range from $50 to $150. For electric hydronic baseboard heaters, you can pay more than $150.
Q. How can I keep my kids and pets safe around baseboard heaters?
A. Invest in heat covers for your baseboard heaters. These keep your kids from touching any hot surfaces and prevent pets from accidentally bumping up against the heaters.
Q. Where should I install a baseboard heater?
A. You notice the best results if you install your heaters beneath a window. Windows allow a great deal of cold to seep into a room, so a heater underneath one captures the cold air that comes in and warms it, making the room much more comfortable.
Baseboard heaters we recommend
Best of the best: Fahrenheat's Hydronic Baseboard Heater
Our take: An electric hydronic heater with a built-in thermostat that operates efficiently and boasts an exterior that says cool, making it one of the best heaters on the market.
What we like: Offers quiet operation when it's starting or stopping. Provides even, comfortable heat. Doesn't send dust or allergens through the room because it's fanless. Ideal for homes with kids and/or pets because the exterior doesn't get hot.
What we dislike: Controls are hidden on the bottom and sometimes get stuck.
Best bang for your buck: Cadet's Manufacturing Electric Baseboard Heater
Our take: An affordable baseboard heater that offers continuous, effective heat.
What we like: Offers easy installation. Circulates air using convection. Doesn't make much noise when in operation. Sturdy steel construction that allows the unit to last for years.
What we dislike: Doesn't include a thermostat and requires one for operation.
Our take: A budget-friendly heater that offers extremely reliable performance.
What we like: Its electric components provide 100% conversion of utilized power to heat. Boasts a full-length safety circuit. Features durable steel construction great for bedrooms and living areas. Quiet operation.
What we dislike: Takes a while to warm up a room. May not generate enough heat to warm a large room.
Jennifer Blair is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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