Are you looking for a cost and energy-efficient way to keep your home warm this winter? Are you on the point of buying a new heating system and still wondering if it’s necessary to add a baseboard heater to your shopping list?
Before you go further, let me make some recommendations and tell you straight away: Many baseboard heating systems operate without ductwork and can be expensive to run. They also take up valuable floor space that you can use for furniture and other home decorations.
If you live in an older home or building and have been using a baseboard heater, but it didn’t satisfy your needs, I got you. There is no point in buying a style of heating that was more de rigueur in decades past.
Luckily for you, I have combined a list of the best alternatives to baseboard heaters that make sense for your home and your current needs.
What is a Baseboard Heater
A baseboard heater is a zone heating unit usually placed along the bottom of an interior wall. The term “baseboard heater” usually refers to the heater placement. Some are attached directly to the base of an interior wall, especially in sections where the greatest heat loss tends to happen. Others are installed under a window to counter the cold air radiating off the window glass.
Most residential baseboard heaters are between 3 and 4 feet (0.9 and 1.2 meters) high, although other sizes are available. Smaller, portable electric heaters also exist, placed on a floor or tabletop to provide warmth.
Baseboard heaters are made up of a series of metal fins that run horizontally along either side of the device. Each fin is electrically heated through an internal wire coil to produce heat within each section of metal. The air in these sections rises due to convection, and the heat is transferred throughout the room.
If you want more information how different types of baseboard heaters work, check the difference between hydronic electric baseboard heaters vs standard.
Pros of Baseboard Heating
The cost of running a baseboard heater is relatively low. They can be adjusted according to the number and temperature of rooms in your home. Rather than heating the entire house, you can adjust them for each room and turn off or down systems that are not needed. It’s an efficient way to heat one area at a time. A fan blows the warm air, so there’s no heat loss to other areas in your home. This makes it an energy-efficient choice for heating because the warmth doesn’t escape.
Baseboard heaters can be added to existing heating systems or used as stand-alone solutions if desired. They are simple to install since they don’t require ductwork. After installation, simply plug them in and turn them on, no need to hire a professional to install or maintain them.
Baseboard heaters are quiet: You don’t need to worry about waking up in the middle of the night with a blaring heater making an awful racket! These space heaters aren’t known for their noise (in fact, they’re known for exactly the opposite). So now you can rest easy through the whole night.
The appearance of a baseboard heater is more subtle than other types, such as ceiling heaters, wall heaters, and radiant floor heat. They’re built into the wall and often covered by a toe-kick or decorative cap, so they aren’t very visible from a distance. This aesthetically pleasing design is an added bonus to baseboard heaters.
Cons of Baseboard Heating
First, it’s important to note that baseboard heaters are limited in how much space they can heat. If you live in an area where the winters get extremely cold, a single baseboard heater may not be able to heat your entire house. In these cases, you’ll have to install multiple units throughout your home. This can increase not only the installation cost but also the operation cost and the time it takes for each heater to warm up your home.
In addition, most baseboard heater models are not capable of withstanding cold outdoor temperatures. For example, if you live in an area that regularly experiences temperatures below 5 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter, your baseboard heater will lose its heating capabilities at some point during the cold season. This means that your house will not be heated when it’s freezing outside, which can lead to frozen water pipes and other expensive problems.
By design, baseboard heaters take up valuable wall space in every room. The placement of the units and the need to keep them unobstructed can severely limit where you can place furniture and what kind of curtains you can safely hang. Long drapes are a big “no” on windows above a baseboard heater!
Electric baseboard heaters can get hot when they’re on. Much hotter than most people would like to be close to. If there is not enough clearance in front or around the heater, you’re at risk of fire or your curious children getting burned.
Like most electric space heaters, baseboard heating is notorious for producing very dry heat. If used for a long period, these heaters strip the skin of moisture. You can also experience sore throat, bloody noses, and dry eyes, especially if you already suffer from these conditions. Some people will use a humidifier in their home in response to the dry air, but this often requires more electricity to run and can be a hassle to clean and refill with fresh water.
Like most heating systems, baseboard heaters need regular cleaning to keep them working at their best. If you let dust collect inside the unit, it will have to work twice as hard to keep the room warm. As a result, you’ll not feel comfortable, and you’ll also experience an increase in your energy bills.
Best Alternatives To Baseboard Heaters. Choose Your Ideal Option
Now that you understand why some people opt for baseboard heaters and the downsides that come with them, let’s shift gear to baseboard heater replacement options. While most of these units might cost more to purchase, they are also energy-efficient, easy, and less costly to maintain.
1. Wall Heaters
If you’re on a budget and looking for a pocket-friendly unit to replace your baseboard heater, a wall heater will be your best option.
Wall heaters are compact, best suited for small rooms, and can provide heat quickly. This is because a wall heater uses a fan to disperse air after the current while the baseboard relies solely on the current.
Like baseboard heaters, wall heaters also have fire and safety concerns. For these reasons, it’s important not to leave the unit unattended. If you’re not using the heater, turn it off and unplug it from the wall.
The good thing about electric space heaters is that they come with safety features, including auto shut-off and overheat protection.
If you choose a wall heater, make sure you size the heater properly. An undersized heater usually has to work harder to maintain the set temperature, while an oversized unit will leave cold spots in your room.
2. Ductless Heat Pumps
Ductless heat pumps are appliances that can both cool and heat your home, depending on the season. These appliances move heat rather than generate it, so they save you money while helping the environment.
A ductless heat pump has outdoor and indoor units connected by a refrigerant line. The outdoor system has a compressor that pumps air into the air handler. The inside systems (air handlers) blow the air into the room, and each has a thermostat so you can control the temperature in each room individually.
Compared to baseboard heaters, ductless heat pumps are more energy-efficient and cost less to operate. In addition, the indoor units have sophisticated fans that move and circulate air faster throughout the room much more evenly.
Experiencing temperature fluctuations in your room becomes a thing of the past when you use these systems. Instead, they’re equipped with sensors that detect the temperature in every spot of the room, therefore, directing more warm air exactly where it’s needed the most.
The two main drawbacks of ductless heat mini-split systems are the cost and installation. They are way more expensive than baseboard heaters and can be challenging to install if you don’t have basic DIY skills.
3. High-Efficiency Furnaces
A high-efficiency furnace is specifically designed to have low operating costs. Most are sealed, so there is no need for an air filter or exhaust duct. Most also have two separate gas burners – one for the blower and another for heating – to operate on 2 different levels simultaneously. The result is high efficiency.
A high-efficiency furnace is generally more expensive to purchase but can have up to 30% lower operating costs. The heating bills are lower because the furnaces run on natural gas at low RPM.
Because they do not use as much power, many homeowners choose to get a larger, more powerful furnace. That way, even if the furnace is running for long periods at low speeds, it does not need to cycle on and off to maintain room temperature.
High-efficiency furnaces are usually used with forced air systems. They were originally designed for use in radiant floor heating systems, but newer designs are compatible with other types of forced air systems.
A high-efficiency furnace is also called a sealed burn system because it burns gases inside the unit at low speeds. It does not need to be vented outside and uses less energy to produce the same amount of heat as a standard furnace. Some are also compatible with hybrid systems that combine forced air, radiant floor heating, and hot water for even more efficient heating.
The most important difference between a high-efficiency furnace and other types is the way it burns fuel. Standard furnaces use anywhere from 50%-80% of their gas to push air through the system. A high-efficiency furnace uses about 20% of its gas to move the same amount of air. The rest is used for heating, which reduces operating costs significantly
4. Solar Heating
Solar heating is a process that takes advantage of the light and heat from the sun to provide heating on a smaller scale, such as for single buildings or small communities. Examples of this type of application include solar water heaters.
A solar water heater usually consists of some sort of collectors, a tank to store the heated water, and a way to transfer heat from the collectors to the tank. These systems often use an electric pump to circulate fluid between the collectors and the tank; all that is needed for operation is some sunshine and a source of water such as a river or lake.
Although these sorts of applications are simple compared with systems used to produce electricity, they can be economically advantageous as an alternative to traditional fuel systems.
5. Wood Heating
A wood stove is a heating system that burns small pieces of firewood instead of relying on fossil fuels to keep your house warm. Usually located in the main living area, this type of heating produces burnable gases that are then released up through the chimney. Wood stoves can be a very cost-effective and eco-friendly way to heat your home, but you must use the correct firewood to get the most out of this heating method.
A wood stove operates using convection to distribute heat throughout a house. As the stovetop heats up, hot air rises and draws more cold air from an exterior vent. This exchange allows your house to stay at a comfortable temperature as the woodstove heats it without relying on electricity or oil/gas fuels for power.
Burning firewood as your primary heating source can save hundreds of dollars a year, as it is much cheaper than other fuel sources such as oil or gas. It’s also beneficial for those who live in rural areas because it doesn’t rely on an external power source for heat, giving you consistent warmth throughout winter.
Buying a new wood stove can range from $300 to $5,000 or more depending on the type of features you want to be included (such as catalytic converters to reduce pollutants, fans for increased efficiency, etc.). The other factor to consider is whether you want a stove that burns only wood or one that can also burn other materials such as coal, corn, and pellets.
One cord (a standard unit) of seasoned firewood costs around $100 and will typically last the winter season in most homes — although this number depends on the size of your home, how well insulated it is, and the number of people living there. You can save on costs by bundling your wood or buying in bulk from a farm or supplier.
6. Pellet Stoves
A pellet stove is a heater that uses small, compressed pieces of wood as fuel to produce heat for your home. The stove works by feeding the pellets into a firebox, burned, and converted into heat. This heat can be directed out into your house through a system of ducts or circulated directly in the room using a fan to increase airflow.
Unlike a standard wood-burning stove that uses large pieces of firewood formed into a log, a pellet stove uses compressed, small pellets. The pellets have been formed from dried sawdust and particles resulting from lumber milling. They are most commonly made from the sawdust and shavings produced during the cutting of lumber for furniture or construction purposes but can also be made from scrap pieces of plywood.
Pellets burn twice as hot as firewood, and it will take longer to heat a room because a full load only lasts for half an hour. In addition, pellets can be expensive if you aren’t able to find them locally. If buying in bulk, they will cost the same per pound as a cord of firewood and will likely be more challenging to transport than using an ATV or truck.
Pellets also produce more ash than firewood. Since there is no bark on the pellets, all ashes will end up in one pile. This creates a potential fire hazard if you’re not careful during your cleaning routine.
7. Underfloor Heating
Underfloor heating is also known as radiant heat. It’s a way to heat objects and people rather than the air. It commonly uses electric coils or hot water piping inside flooring to provide gentle, even warmth underfoot.
Here are some of the advantages of installing a radiant floor heater
- Quieter – Underfloor heating doesn’t rely on forced air, so there’s no risk of noisy fan noise from furnaces or air ducts.
- Easier to set up – Because it relies on a network of tubing and wiring that takes the place of traditional hot air ducts, underfloor heating is significantly more flexible.
Apart from being more expensive than other heating systems, the other biggest problem with underfloor heating is moisture. If you’re not careful about keeping your flooring’s sub-floor well ventilated, it will become damp and moldy throughout the winter. Routinely check for signs of mold or mildew if you run an underfloor heating system.
Any flooring that can’t tolerate moisture should be off-limits. This includes wood flooring, unfinished hardwood, and other materials that aren’t getting ventilation through sub-flooring.
As we conclude our look into alternatives to baseboard heaters, one thing is clear! Baseboard heaters have their pros and cons, just like any other home heating solution.
In some cases, they can be as effective as a central heating system at providing warmth to the rooms in your house, but in other cases, they are ineffective and can cost much more to operate. For this reason, you must understand the advantages and disadvantages associated with any home heating system before making your final decision.
If you have any questions or comments concerning the subject of electric baseboard heater replacement options, feel free to drop them in the comments section below