Baseboard Heating: Everything You Need To Know

Baseboard heating is an alternative way to heat your home. It allows you to control the temperature in each room separately but is more expensive to operate.
Written by Patrick Price
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Baseboard heating is a system of indoor heating that uses individual baseboard heaters to warm specific areas. It’s a quiet, clean, and non-intrusive alternative to traditional forced-air heating. 
Thinking about installing a new heating system in your home? You can skip the intrusive and costly process of having a furnace and ducts installed by going with a baseboard heating system. Baseboard heating also doesn’t generate dangerous carbon monoxide and is much cheaper to install—though more costly to run. 
There are definitely advantages and disadvantages of using baseboard heating, and it’s important to understand both perspectives. Before you decide which type of heating you’ll use, read through this guide—it will go over everything that you need to know about baseboard heating systems, from how they work to how much they cost. 
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What is baseboard heating?

Baseboard heating is a system of home climate control wherein heat is generated by individual units known as baseboard heaters
What are baseboard heaters? You’ll typically see them located along the baseboards of a room where the floor and the wall meet—hence the name. 
Some homeowners have baseboard heating systems installed as an additional heating source if their central unit isn’t quite adequate. Other homes exclusively use baseboard heaters without conventional central heating. 
Baseboard heaters come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and types. They’re all (at least partially) powered by electricity, operate to individually warm specific rooms, and are located near the base of walls—usually underneath a window.

How do baseboard heaters work?

In the simplest terms, baseboard heaters work by converting electrical energy into thermal energy and releasing it into the room. They are located near the floor because heat rises. Heat generated at the bottom of a wall will rise to warm the entire space. 
The specifics of how a baseboard heater works depend on which type of baseboard heater it is. There are two main types of baseboard heaters: hydronic heaters and convection heaters (often called electric heaters). 

Electric baseboard heaters

Electric or “convection” baseboard heaters are the more common of the two types. 
They’re called electric heaters because they rely solely on electricity to heat up metal coils.
While more common, this type of baseboard heater is less efficient and usually used in conjunction with a conventional central heating system. 
MORE: All you need to know about central heating and cooling

Hydronic baseboard heaters

The less common and more efficient baseboard heaters—hydronic heaters—are the ones that homeowners typically use if they do not have a supplementary heating system. 
They work by using electricity to warm water or oil that’s held in a contained system. The heated liquid then radiates heat into the room.
This means that hydronic heaters warm up more slowly but retain heat for much longer. 

How much do baseboard heaters cost?

Prices for baseboard heaters vary depending on the type of heater. Electric heaters typically cost $100-$300 per unit, and hydronic heaters usually cost between $200-$1,000 per unit, depending on the quality of the heaters.
Installing a baseboard heating system in your house is going to cost far less than installing a traditional central heating system with a furnace and ducts.
Even if you decide to connect hydronic heaters throughout the house via piping, you’ll still pay less than for forced-air heating to be installed. 
However, once the baseboard heating system is installed, your costs may go up in the long run.
While they’re more affordable to purchase and install, baseboard heaters are approximately twice as expensive to operate on a daily basis. 
The one caveat is if you don’t need to heat all of your house at once. The trouble with central forced-air heating is that it can’t be regulated on a room-by-room basis. If there are areas of your house that you seldom use, it’s more difficult to shut off the heat to them. 
In such a situation, using baseboard heaters could actually be cheaper. 

Pros and cons of baseboard heaters

Let’s take a look at the overall pros and cons of a baseboard heating system


  • Quiet. Baseboard heaters do not create any of the white-noise humming sounds of a forced-air system. They’re virtually silent. 
  • Zone control. Baseboard heaters allow for individual heat settings to be used on a room-by-room basis, according to need. 
  • Simple and cheap installation. Purchasing and installing baseboard heaters is cheaper and less intrusive than installing a forced-air system.
  • Safety. Baseboard heaters do not use dangerous gasses like carbon monoxide—which eliminates the risk of a line leaking deadly gasses into your home. 
  • Clean air. Since baseboard heaters work on a room-by-room basis, they don’t circulate air around the house. They don’t stir up/circulate dust, germs, dander, pollen, or other irritants. 


  • Expensive. Since baseboard heaters run off of electricity, which is more expensive than gas, operating a baseboard system is far more expensive than operating central heating. 
  • Safety. Baseboard heaters eliminate some of the big-ticket dangers like
    carbon monoxide poisoning
    . But they introduce another risk—burns. While not a serious threat, this can be a problem for families with small children and pets that lean up against walls. 
  • Dry heat. Baseboard heaters may give your clean air, but they also dry the air. Homeowners with sensitive skin have had issues with dry skin and eyes. 

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Baseboard heaters are much cheaper to buy and install than traditional heating systems. Once installed, however, they’re much more expensive to run.
Baseboard heating is, overall, far safer than forced air heating because it does not rely on dangerous gases. It does however pose a small risk of minor burns—though these can be avoided with basic precautions.
Baseboard heaters are electric heating units that operate individually to heat specific rooms—rather than an entire house like force-air heating.
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