14 Electric Baseboard Heating Pros and Cons

There are several options available today to ensure that your home remains at a comfortable temperature. If you want to avoid the issues of a formal furnace and don’t like the idea of having natural gas or wood-burning items for this purpose, then electric baseboard heating is a safe and simple option to consider. The flexibility of this resource allows you to heat that one room in your home that always seems cold, install flexible heating options in every room, or create a whole-house temperature control option.

These heaters install along the baseboards of your room. They can install along almost any wall, assuming that there is an electrical connection available to use. Then you can connect the heaters to a central or individual thermostat. Some models come with a setting knob or dial which allows you to control the levels of heat received on the equipment itself. When the heat releases from the baseboard, it rises toward the ceiling to create the level of comfort that you want.

If you are evaluating the heating options that might work for your home, then these are the pros and cons of electric baseboard heating that you will want to consider.

List of the Pros of Electric Baseboard Heating

1. Baseboard heating creates a zoned system for comfort.
When you have electric baseboard heating installed in your home, then you can supply the heat to a location where it is needed directly. You don’t need to operate a space heater (which could cost up to $30 extra per month, per unit) to create the higher levels of comfort because you can warm up specific units, spaces, or rooms based on your occupancy. That is why this option is an effective choice for basements, garages, and other spaces that typically see drafts occur throughout the older months.

2. You can set specific zones of comfort with electric baseboard heating.
One of the most significant advantages of baseboard heaters is that most systems allow you to set a specific temperature for each unit throughout your home or business. If someone likes a room to be a little warmer, then they could set that temperature at 75 degrees. When another person wants their space to be cooler, then they could set it at 67 degrees. This flexibility allows each person to change their environment when needed to maximize the levels of comfort that they experience.

3. Baseboard heaters do not require ducting in the home or business.
If you are trying to install an economical HVAC system in your home, then electric baseboard heating is one of your first choices to consider. Because you do not need any ductwork to distribute the heat from room to room, you can place this option almost anywhere throughout the structure. When you want to remodel or upgrade an older home that needs more heating, then you can add it quickly without a retrofit when choosing this technology. This advantage holds true for those who are creating an addition for their home as well.

4. You can barely hear baseboard heaters operating when they are correctly maintained.
If you have ever heard the motor and fan for a furnace kick in, the noise can be overwhelming if you are standing next to the equipment. Older models are so loud that they can wake you up at night sometimes when they start working to blow hot air throughout your home. Electric baseboard heaters do not have this issue because they are exceptionally quiet. Most of the time, you will not even know they are operating. There can be some popping and cracking as they start heating up, but that tends to be the extent of the problem.

5. There are no moving parts to worry about with electric baseboard heating.
Because the only components of this heating option are the element that works to distribute warmth, the exterior casing, and the wiring that supplies electricity, baseboards rarely break down – even after several years of use. That doesn’t mean they are 100% maintenance-free, since you will want to clean off the dust and lint that collects on them. What you will discover is that this system can work without interruption, be available for year-round support, and do so with minimal expenses after the initial installation.

6. Electric baseboard heating is a long-term option.
The average lifespan of a traditional furnace is between 16-20 years when you properly maintain the equipment. Some brands of gas furnaces are rated to last for up to 30 years. When you install an electric baseboard system to care for your indoor heating needs, you will receive a comparable result. The average cost to professionally install an electric baseboard heater is about $350 per register, but it is also a job that most homeowners with some DIY skills can do on their own.

7. You can easily clean electric baseboard heaters.
When you need to remove the dust and lint from your register, all that you need for this process is a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment. You can usually go through the entire summer without putting in any effort unless you expect the unit to kick-in at night to warm up the house. Before you turn the system on as autumn sets in, all you need to do is go around to each unit to clean them out. If you don’t clean them, then the odor of burning dust fills your home for a couple of days – which is not a very pleasant experience.

8. Each room can use the specific size of heater that is necessary.
You can customize the registers that you install with electric baseboard heating to ensure each room receives an efficient experience. You can position each unit to work with the unique air flow characteristics that are present there as well. This flexibility can work separately or with a connected system that operates from a single thermostat. Even if you choose to create a single system, a bypass control can allow you to turn on individual units when needed to maximize your comfort levels at home.

9. Electric baseboard heaters are easy to reposition.
If you find that the positioning of your units does not maximize the heat that you receive in a room, then moving the electric baseboard heaters is a lot easier to do than if a traditional system were in place. You cannot really move your ductwork without a significant investment in the infrastructure of your home. If you were to use this heating system instead, then a change to your trim work and how you route your wiring may be the only expenses that you need to consider. Since entry-level units often cost less than $100 each, averaging about $10 per foot in size, you can even decide to add a second heater if you want to support larger rooms without much difficulty.

List of the Cons of Electric Baseboard Heating

1. You cannot place furniture in front of an electric baseboard heater.
There are two disadvantages to consider with this key point. The first is the fact that any furniture that you place in front of an electric baseboard heater could be damaged by the presence of high temperatures right in front of the element. Upholstery and certain woods even have a higher risk of flammability when placed in front of this system. You must maintain a minimum 6-inch clearance zone to ensure that your property is not damaged by this type of heating system.

The second issue here is that if you do place furniture items in front of the heater, then you will restrict the air flow that it can achieve to warm up the room. Your system will need to work harder to distribute the warmth, which may not even be possible if a large item (such as a sofa) is blocking the register.

2. Electric baseboard heaters require specific placements to be successful.
When you decide that a baseboard heating system is the best option for your home, then you must keep the registers clear from any windows, insulative items, or doors to ensure their response to the temperature in your room is consistent. If you have a unit that senses the temperature of its space and a cold draft is usually present, then the system might run more than necessary to ensure that you are comfortable.

Most baseboard systems are successful when they are placed along a wall where they are not next to or underneath a window or door. For some homeowners, that requirement might make this heating option an unreliable one.

3. Some systems provide inconsistent heating in some rooms.
When there are baseboard heating systems installed with a built-in thermostat, then you might experience inconsistent heating results. The system will sense what the temperature is where the unit is installed along the floor. That means whatever the temperature feels like when you are standing could be uncomfortable compared to what the thermostat senses. It is not unusual to have your heating system set 3-5 degrees warmer than what you would typically want because of the hot air rising and affecting the zones.

The easiest way to counter this disadvantage is to install a system that connects to a wall-mounted thermostat.

4. Electric baseboard heaters can be expensive to run.
If your baseboard heaters only use electricity to generate heat for your home, then the expense of the system can be significant. It is not unusual for the monthly utility bill to be 30% to 50% higher during the coldest months of the year if you use this system compared to a traditional furnace. Although the capital costs of installation per register are significantly lower than the expense of a furnace and its ductwork, the costs over the long-term tend to equalize because of the added energy use that comes with this system.

5. You must clean your registers to maintain their efficiency levels.
You must continue to clean your electric baseboard heaters throughout the season if you want to keep them working at their best. If dust collects on them, then the system will work harder to maintain the temperature that you want in your home. You won’t feel a difference since the room will still be comfortable, but there will be a noticeable increase in your overall electric bill. Compared to the work you need to do to maintain a furnace throughout the winter, you will be putting in more time during the winter months to keep the heaters humming along.

The pros and cons of electric baseboard heaters are worth considering if you have an older home that needs a remodel, or your new construction project wants to avoid the expense of a formal HVAC system. When these registers connect to a wall-mounted thermostat, then they can be an effective system to use for home heating. If you wish to avoid the expense of using high levels of electricity in the winter months, then a different option may be more suited to your needs.

About the Author
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.