Baseboard heaters are installed along the bottom of the wall. They replace either replace the baseboard or are placed next to the baseboard.
The best baseboard heaters can provide additional heating; they are particularly useful for eliminating cold drafts (when installed under a window).
There are many types of baseboard heaters, such as:
- Conventional hot-water baseboard heaters. These units are connected to the hot water system in our house.
- Hydronic electric baseboard heaters. These are usually oil filled baseboard heaters, powered by electricity, and have higher energy efficiency.
- Electric baseboard heaters. This is the most popular kind of baseboard heaters; they are powered by electricity and can generate up to 50W per inch heating output.
This is a summary article that explained everything you need to know about the baseboard heaters. We have also compiled a list of the best baseboard heaters (electric, hydronic; they can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 per piece).
You can find this list, complete with a spec-by-spec comparison table, and reviews of the baseboard heaters in the second section. You can skip right to the list here:
First of all, we’re going to look into how baseboard heaters are built and how do they work. Even more importantly for everybody looking to buy such a heater (or a dozen of them), we have explained the exact specification you should be looking at before buying any baseboard heaters.
Baseboard heaters differ in the type of heating source, heating capacity, length, and power input/output per length. The best electric baseboard heaters, for example, also have a built-in thermostat.
Let’s first look at what kinds of baseboard heaters exist, and a bit of a historical overview:
Old-School Hot-Water Baseboard Heaters (A Bit Of History)
It is important to understand the differences between different types of baseboard heaters. The old-school hot-water baseboard heaters are difficult to install. You needed a recess in the wall, or just throw out the baseboard and replace it with a heater, like this:
In the case of the newest and best electric baseboard heaters, for example, you don’t even need to replace the baseboard:
They are freestanding baseboard units that can be placed next to a wall (easy installation makes them the most popular kind of baseboard heaters).
The older generations might be more familiar with the classic hot-water baseboard heaters. In fact, both hot-water and steam baseboard heaters are still frequently used in older houses with hot-water or steam heating systems.
The key part of the best hot-water baseboard heaters is the placement of the metal fins (we differentiate between copper fins, aluminum fins, cupronickel fins, and stainless steel fins). These fins are heated by the hot water and, in turn, heat their surrounding. Fins can be attached to the hot-water baseboard heaters in two ways:
- Fins are separate from the hot-water tube.
- Fins are cast together with the tube, making the heater one uniform unit.
In these older hot-water heaters that are installed into the baseboard itself, a lot of specifications depend on these fins. Spacing between the fins, the shape of the fins (rectangular or square), the size of the fins, and the tube size and length all played a role in determining which is the best hot-water baseboard heater for a given situation.
You can use them pretty much anywhere. Here are some examples of how modern electric baseboard heaters are used:
The key elements of every hot-water baseboard heater are:
- Supply tube. This is the source of the hot water.
- Return tube.
- Damper assembly.
- Damper pivot.
- Return tube hanger.
- Supply tube hanger.
- Heating element.
- Front panel.
- Element guide.
As you can see, the whole setup of hot-water baseboard heaters is quite complex. Not only do you need a hot-water based heating system, but you also have to find about baseboard heaters before you actually lay the baseboard on the wall.
If you’re building a new house, the hot-water baseboard heater might be a superb idea. However, if you want to add baseboard heaters to an existing home without much hassle, you’re much better of with the electric baseboard heaters.
Today, more than 80% of baseboard heaters we install are electric heaters. They are very simple to install, very cheap to buy, and very easy to maintain.
Let’s have a look at the ins and out of electric baseboard heaters:
How Do Electric Baseboard Heaters Work?
What are electric baseboard heaters?
Quite simply, these are horizontally installed baseboard heaters that are powered by electricity. They don’t need to be attached to the hot-water heating system like the older units.
Every electric baseboard heater can contain one or more heating elements. The heating element is the basic unit. In the comparison table below, you will see the best electric baseboard heaters; these are the individual heating elements.
Here’s how every electric baseboard heating element is structured (it’s quite simple, actually):
- Insulated supports.
- Terminals. For connecting the transistor to the electric supply.
Here’s how the internal structure of electric baseboard heaters looks like:
The resistor is the heart. All electric space heaters, including baseboard units, generate heat by passing electricity through the resistor. When electrons (electricity is carried out by these small particles) collide with a metal ion (resistors are made out of metal), it transfers its kinetic energy to the metal, and the metal resistor heats up.
Resistors are usually made out of solids (wire or metal ribbons), but liquids and gases can also serve as resistors. If a baseboard heater uses liquid as a resistor, we referred to such a heater as ‘hydronic electric baseboard heater’ or ‘hydronic baseboard heater’ for short.
Resistors are well-insulated. All residential electric baseboard heaters are also surrounded by a protective sheet of metal. It protects the heater and looks more appealing to the eye than a naked resistor with insulation.
Each resistor is generally rated from 80 to 250 watts per linear foot. That translates into 270 to 850 BTU/hr for every foot of the baseboard heater.
Why do we talk about resistors? Well, when figuring out which electric baseboard heater is the best, the specifications are our key friend. And a lot of good specifications stem from a heater having good resistors.
With that in mind, let’s look at the key specifications to check before buying an electric baseboard heater:
5 Key Specs To Check Before Buying A Baseboard Heater
Not all baseboard heaters are good. Some have very low heating power, others have limited power per length, and some of them are either not reliable enough to last for 5 years or are too difficult to install.
Here’s what specifications you should be looking at when picking the best baseboard heater for your home:
- Heating Power (expressed in watts). How much heat can a baseboard heater generate? The heating power will tell you that exactly. You can find 1,000W, 1500W, or even 2000W baseboard heaters. Almost all of the electricity (electric baseboard heaters have above 90% energy efficiency) is transformed into heating. That means that the most popular 1500W baseboard heater has a 1500W electricity input and 5,000+ BTU heating output.
- Length of the baseboard heater (expressed in inches). Before buying a baseboard heater, you need to measure how much space (or, in this case, length) you can spare for a heater. Usually, you measure the length of the wall where the baseboard heater would be placed. If you have a lot of space, you can go with 45+ inch heaters (the longest one is 96 inches long). If you don’t have that much space, opt for 40 inches or less.
- Power Per Length (expressed in watts per inch). Usually, we want every part of the baseboard heater to produce as much heat as possible. Obviously, longer heaters produce, in general, more heat. To adequately compare the heat produced, we need to check the ‘power per length’ or ‘how many watts do baseboard heaters produce by inch’. Each standard resistor is rated between 6 and 21 watts per inch. With thicker heaters (be aware of height and width dimensions), we can increase the heating input power per length to 30+ watts per inch.
- Built-In Thermostat (key to cost-efficiency). Baseboard heaters usually don’t have a thermostat, but it would be great if they had one. The perfect case is an electric baseboard heater with a built-in thermostat because the thermostat automatically adjusts the heating output (and the electricity expenditure) to the heating needs. That means that a baseboard heater doesn’t have to run on 100% heating output all the time if you don’t need that access heat. As you can see from the table below, the best baseboard heaters (#1 Fahrenheat FBE15002) have a built-in thermostat and therefore can save you quite a lot on electricity bills.
- Easy Installation. You can easily buy an electric baseboard heater on your own because you can install it yourself. The electric baseboard heaters are very easy to install; just plug them in the 120V outlet and press ‘On’. Contrary to the hot-water baseboard heaters, you don’t need to bother with knocking out the baseboard or hot water piping. In fact, some of the best baseboard heaters are placed parallel to the wall (ie. baseboard radiators) and don’t replace the baseboard at all.
With all that in mind, let’s look at the list of the best baseboard heaters for sale on the current market. Be sure to check the comparison table; we compare the key specifications and read individual reviews of each baseboard heater to get a good grip on which baseboard heater would work for your home:
Best Baseboard Heaters In 2021 (Electric, Hydronic)
- Best Electric Baseboard Heater With Thermostat Overall: Fahrenheat FBE15002 (Most Reliable)
- Best Cadet Small Electric Baseboard Heater: Cadet Manufacturing 09952
- Best Liquid Filled Hydronic Baseboard Heater: Fahrenheat PLF1004 (Most Energy Efficient)
- Longest And Most Powerful Electric Baseboard Heater: Cadet 96″ 8F2025W Heater
- Best-Selling Cheap Electric Baseboard Radiator Heater: Comfort Zone CZ600
- Very Good Baseboard Heater With Adjustable Heating Output: Costway 24914-CYPE
1. Best Electric Baseboard Heater With Thermostat Overall: Fahrenheat FBE15002 (Most Reliable)
|Heating Power:||1,500 W|
|Power Per Length:||33.3 Watts Per Inch|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||45 x 6 x 7.5 inches|
Fahrenheat FBE15002 is the classic great-all-around electric baseboard heater with a thermostat (built-in thermostat, mind you). It’s a unit that combines all the most popular specifications (standard 45″ length, 1,500W electric input, above-average power per length). It’s made by Fahrenheat; one of the most reliable companies in the baseboard heater industry.
The Fahrenheat FBE15002 is capable of generating 5,000+ BTU heating output with its 1,500W electric power input. Most baseboard heaters with lengths between 40″ to 50″ are powered by 1,000W input.
The key advantage Fahrenheat FBE15002 has is its 33.3 watts per inch heating input concentration. That means that it produces more heat per inch of the heater relative to other units. That’s because it’s a thicker 6″ x 7.5″ unit that contains a bigger-than-average solid resistor.
It’s one of the most energy-efficient electric baseboard heaters with a thermostat. The inclusion of thermostat reduces the costs of heating because the Fahrenheat FBE15002 gives away only as much heat as it is needed, and not needlessly spending electricity to provide the surplus heat.
All in all, Fahrenheat FBE15002 is generally considers the best baseboard heater with a thermostat on the market. It’s very reliable, has all the right specifications, and has a very easy plug-it-in installation (parallel to the baseboard). It’s available for a just little over $100:
2. Best Cadet Small Electric Baseboard Heater: Cadet Manufacturing 09952
|Heating Power:||750 W|
|Power Per Length:||20.8 Watts Per Inch|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||36.3 x 4 x 7 inches|
Cadet is one of the best-known baseboard heaters manufacturers. One of their most popular units is Cadet 09952. It’s especially popular with people who are buying such a heater for the first time because the installation is super easy and because it’s such a small (and therefore budget-friendly) option.
Cadet 09952 is a small electric baseboard heater. While most of these heaters are powered by 1,000+ watts, Cadet 09952 runs on only 750W. With a 36-inch length, it’s also one of the shortest electric baseboard heaters on the market.
It’s perfect for homeowners who need just a little more supplemental heating in their homes. The 750W will not be enough to heat up the entire room on its own, but it will serve very well as auxiliary heating working together with the central heating system.
You need very little space to install the Cadet 09952. The pre-punched knockouts at 1-inch intervals make installation simple, and the whole unit costs about $50 total.
However, because Cadet 09952 is so small, it doesn’t come with a thermostat.
All in all, Cadet baseboard heaters are very popular and Cadet 09952 is their best small electric baseboard heater. It’s very cheap to buy, very easy to install, but it’s also small and doesn’t have a thermostat. Nonetheless, for a first-time buyer, Cadet 09952 is the perfect unit if you want to try baseboard heaters out:
3. Best Liquid Filled Hydronic Baseboard Heater: Fahrenheat PLF1004 (Most Energy Efficient)
|Heating Power:||1,000 W|
|Power Per Length:||21.7 Watts Per Inch|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||46 x 3 x 8 inches|
Fahrenheat PLF1004 is another top-rated baseboard heater by Fahrenheat. This one of powered by electricity but it has a liquid (instead of a solid) resistor. Liquids can absorb more heat than metals and therefore you will have a lasting heating output from Fahrenheat PLF1004 even after you unplug it.
The use of a liquid resistor makes the Fahrenheat PLF1004 the most energy-efficient baseboard heater.
This hydronic electric baseboard heater has quite standard specifications. It has a 46″ inch length and is powered by 1,000W electric power input.
Despite its very slim and favorable design (width is only 3 inches), the Fahrenheat PLF1004 has a 21.7 watts per inch input along the whole heater.
All in all, Fahrenheat PLF1004 has provide the most heat out of 1,000W electric input, making it the most energy-efficient hydronic baseboard heater. It’s a reliable standard unit with an above-average lifespan expectancy. Being liquid-filled and reliable also means it has a higher-than-average price tag:
4. Longest And Most Powerful Electric Baseboard Heater: Cadet 8F2025W Heater
|Heating Power:||2,000 W|
|Power Per Length:||26.0 Watts Per Inch|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||96 x 2.9 x 8.4 inches|
Cadet also produces one of the biggest and longer baseboard heaters. Their most powerful model is Cadet 8F2025W with 96″ in total length. If you have a long wall (8 ft) and would require quite a bit of heating, Cadet 8F2025W is a perfect choice.
Cadet 8F2025W has up to 2,500W heating capacity. When hooked up to 240V, you can choose between 2,000W or 2,500W. You can also install it on a 208V circuit; it will produce anywhere from 1,500W to 1,875W of maximum heating input/output.
If you translate 2,500W into BTUs, that’s 8,500 BTU/hr. That’s quite a lot for a baseboard heater. If you take into account the ’30 BTU per sq ft you want to heat’ rule of thumb, the Cadet 8F2025W can heat (on its own, mind you) rooms up to about 300 sq ft.
Obviously, you also make sure it’s energy-efficient. Cadet 8F2025W is one of the few Energy Star-rated baseboard heaters; that’s quite amazing.
It’s not without shortfalling, of course. You would need a 208V or 240V electric circuit to run it (not everybody has that). It’s more difficult to install; you can just plug it in, it’s a hardwired model, and it doesn’t have a thermostat which is a shame for such a big unit.
Nonetheless, the Cadet 8F2025W is one of the best electric baseboard heaters on the market, and certainly the longest and most powerful. You can get it here:
5. Best-Selling Cheap Electric Baseboard Heater: Comfort Zone CZ600
|Heating Power:||1,500 W|
|Power Per Length:||51.3 Watts Per Inch|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||30 x 6.7 x 10.6 inches|
Comfort Zone CZ600 is certainly the most interesting baseboard heater we reviewed. It has outstanding specs and is low-balling the whole market with a low price point. It’s certainly the cheapest baseboard heater that sells so well. But appearances can be a bit deceiving; it has some reliability issues.
First of all, Comfort Zone CZ600 is basically a baseboard radiator. It’s placed parallel to the baseboard; it doesn’t replace the baseboard. This freestanding electric baseboard heater is capable of generating 1,500W heating input/output.
That’s quite a lot for a very short heater; its total length is less than 30 inches. That also shoots its watts per inch way above the competition. In fact, the Comfort Zone CZ600 produces 51.3 watts per inch; that’s quite a lot.
The trick – and the source of its reliability problems – is a thicker unit. Its width and height dimensions are 6.7 x 10.6 inches; that is also 4x the cross-section of the comparable units. That usually means that the resistors are either very large, or they are duplicated (or quadrupled in this case).
That’s not an ideal practice and might cause long-term reliability issues. But, hey, the Comfort Zone CZ600 costs only about $50 so it’s not hard to see why this baseboard radiator is so popular:
6. Very Good Baseboard Heater With Adjustable Heating Output: Costway 24914-CYPE
|Heating Power:||1,500 W|
|Power Per Length:||38.0 Watts Per Inch|
|Dimensions (LxWxH):||40 x 3.5 x 7.5 inches|
Costway 24914-CYPE is another easy-install freestanding baseboard heater. It’s the kind that you place near the wall or near the baseboard, and it doesn’t replace the baseboard. It’s a fairly powerful 1,500W unit that’s available for about $100.
In fact, the Costway 24914-CYPE has adjustable heating output. You can set it on 750W or 1,500W (about 2,500 BTU/hr or 5,000 BTU/hr) heating output. That’s quite useful; of course, the adjustable heating output would be even more useful if the Costway 24914-CYPE would have an included thermostat. This would have a net positive effect on energy efficiency.
Measuring less than 40 inches in length, the Costway 24914-CYPE has a very high 38.0 watts per inch power distribution. That’s quite a focused baseboard heater, and may not distribute the heat evenly enough in larger rooms.
All in all, Costway 24914-CYPE is another of the new-age baseboard radiators that’s easy to install, moderately priced, and doesn’t require much in terms of technical skills to use it:
This was a short overview of baseboard heaters. We look at the old-school hot-water heaters and at the newer electric baseboard heaters, and even looks at some of the best models currently on the market, based on the specification preferences.