Restoration Guide: Electric Baseboard Heating

Shannon Lee

Editor's Note: This is article 6 of 8 in Chapter 7: The Electrical Guide of Old House Web's Home Restoration Guide. This guide was developed and edited for old homes from original materials in the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Rehab guide.


Section 1--Electric Heating Systems

Electric baseboard heating has numerous advantages. Installation of electric baseboard heating is low-cost, there is no combustion indoors, and the baseboard heat responds very quickly to changes made at the thermostat. Each room has its own wiring and thermostat, leading to tighter climate control for occupants. The best units are quiet and require only occasional cleaning.

However, there are other systems that might work in place of baseboard heating:

  • Electric thermal storage systems recharge at night and provide heat only when needed, thus increasing energy-efficiency.
  • Radiant floors and ceilings have wiring embedded in panels, mats, and finish materials. Radiant heat responds immediately to thermostat changes, but can be quite expensive.
  • Modular radiant panels are convenient and attractive, but they don't save energy when compared to electric baseboard heating.
  • Hydronic baseboard heaters make use of immersion heating elements in an antifreeze solution. These are usually reserved for commercial purposes.
  • Electric space heaters move warm air quickly with the help of a fan, but they tend to be bulky and a bit more expensive.
  • Electric furnaces heat the air that is forced through fans and then through ducts. They are not as convenient as electric baseboard heating, but the furnaces can often accommodate air conditioning as well.
  • Boiler systems make use of heating elements and a hydronic distribution system, which offers a radiating heat instead of forced air.

Section 2--Renovation and Maintenance

An existing baseboard heating system in your old house can be maintained or improved during home renovation.

  1. Maintain your existing system. Inspect the system to make certain no connections are loose and every component is in good working order. Clean the system if necessary, and replace any parts that are damaged. Maintaining your old system is a good option if you have an eye toward preservation.
  2. Replace your baseboard heating units. Make certain new baseboard heating units boast the Underwriter's Laboratories (UL) and National Electric Manufacturer's Association (NEMA) labels. Cheaper models might not work better than existing ones, but newer models could be more compact.
  3. Replace the thermostats. Electric baseboard heating is controlled by either built-in line-voltage thermostats or remote wall-mounted thermostats. Replacing them can make your baseboard heating work more efficiently.
  4. Add additional heating systems. If the baseboard heating in your old house doesn't do an adequate job, consider adding additional heating methods, such as space heaters, gas heaters or fireplaces, fan heaters, pellet stoves, and the like.
  5. Replace your existing system. Converting to a newer, more efficient system might lower your energy costs by a substantial amount. Since every home is different and the costs can vary, a thorough analysis of your heating system and potential energy savings should be done before replacing that old system.



About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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