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Note: Consumers should not confuse free standing or baseboard heating systems with hydronic or radiant systems that are installed under the flooring of a new structure. These systems work well when installed at the time of construction but are very cost intensive to be added to an existing structure.

  • Keep in mind that how the area to be heated is going to be used will make all if difference in the world when figuring the capacity of the heating system needed. Primary heat will have greater needs than auxiliary heat. Constant use rooms will have greater needs that only are used for guests or special occasions. Old and drafty areas or new and insulated areas as well as the number of windows and type of windows will affect how well a baseboard heating system will work.
  • Estimating the amount of heating during the day vs. during the night is entirely up to personal preferences. If no one is at home during the day, many people lower the thermostat and raise the thermostat when they come home from work, and lower it again at bedtime to account for having covers on the bed. However, if a person occupies the area day and night, the tendency to keep the thermostat at a constant level is more likely. In areas of strong sunlight, even in the winter, thermostats can be lowered during the sunlight hours and raised when the sun sets. For central heat/air units, most are recommended to leave the thermostat at a bearable constant to avoid additional surges to heat and area after it has cooled completely.
  • In order to maximize the effectiveness of a base board heater or baseboard heating system, simple calculations can save a lot of time and trouble for the buyer.
    • Knowing the size of the area is a great place to start. To figure the areas multiply the width and the length of the room. For example a 9' x 12' = 108 sq. ft. If an area is joined to another area, figure the square footage of both areas and add them together.
    • Estimating how many watts will be needed per room is the second step. Keep in mind that older homes with less insulation will need more wattage than a newer home, and open areas such as foyers will lose their heat more quickly as well. Generally an open area or area in an older home will require approximately 10 watts/sq. ft. If the room has standard ceilings, good insulation, and double pane windows as low as 6 watts/sq. ft.
    • These measurements will be used to figure the length of the baseboard heater. In the most general terms, baseboard heaters will use approximately 250 watts of power per foot of length. If your 9' x 12' (108 sq. ft.) room is in an older home, you will need 1080 watts to meet the basic heating requirements. One 5' baseboard heater would fit the requirements for this situation. If the home is newer, well insulated, and this is not the primary heat, a 3' baseboard heater would suffice.
    • To understand if a heater's BTU (British Thermal Units) load is large enough, roughly figure that it takes 300 watts to generate 1000 BTU's of heating muscle.
  • UL is the acronym for Underwriters Laboratories of Northbrook Illinois USA with offices in almost 50 countries worldwide. UL was established in the late 1800's when public adoption of electricity and electrical devices became widely used. UL provides analysis of electrical devices and components and rates safety, usage, training, and validation for producers, retailers, installers, as well as consumers.
  • ETL SEMKO (Electrical Testing Laboratories / Swedish Electric Equipment Control Office) or simply ETL (Electrical Testing Laboratories) is a division of the Intertek Group. This company spans six continents and operates over 30 offices worldwide. This group also specializes in electrical product safety testing, benchmark testing, and performance testing. For some, ETL is considered to be a competitive company to the UL.
  • How does a baseboard heater get UL approved? Components are listed and tested by multiple organizations such as ETL or UL due to the need for compliance in worldwide commerce. Approval times vary due to the simplicity or complexity of the component. Small revisions can be completed and approved in as little as two weeks, with larger revisions or models taking many weeks or months to be approved. In short, UL: Underwriters Laboratories Inc., CSA: Canadian Standards Association, ETL: Originally a mark of ETL Testing Laboratories, now a mark of Intertek Testing Services, CE: Conformance European (Communaut Europenne or Conformit Europenne), and other similar agencies goal is to test electrical components individually or as a whole unit and report the efficiency, safety, compliance, and usability for the worldwide marketplace.


These features make baseboard heaters more user-friendly or enjoyable than some other forms of heaters.

  • Built-in thermal cutoff switches are safety components that cause the electrical current to be interrupted if the temperature of the unit surpasses a set temperature to avoid fire hazards. These are more likely to be in mounted baseboard heater systems.
  • Automatic cut-off switches are more often found of freestanding heating units. They are often a spring loaded switch that interrupts the flow of electricity if the unit is knocked over to avoid fire hazards. Great for high traffic areas or children's rooms for example.
  • Colors usually are neutral beiges, cream, white, or off-white and sometimes basic black. They are designed for usefulness not as a room accessory; therefore colors are usually limited unless a special order is available for an additional cost.
  • Reservoirs are commonly found on Hydronic Baseboard Heaters. These heaters have a coil that is immersed conductive oil or other substance that allows for a ???softer' type of heating that keeps the element warmer after cut off than a simple air element heater supplies.
  • Thermostat is normally attached to the baseboard unit itself so that each unit can be adjusted independently. For additional convenience and efficiency wall mounted thermostats can be wired to work with a baseboard heating system.
  • Low surface temperature is a plus for a baseboard heating system especially in a child or elder care room. The surrounding air is heated by convection and the unit itself will say cool enough not to burn a person (or pet's) skin if the heater it touched during operation.
  • Baseboard heaters are safe to mount against most walls; however, attention should be paid to curtains above the unit or furniture that might be pushed in front of the heater. It is noted that a minimum of 8" should be adhered to in order for fire prevention and air flow for the convection process. For most purposes rather than going with the strict 8" minimum, it is recommended that 9"-12" is safer in most circumstances.

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