Not many people have baseboard heating systems anymore. Still, if you’re thinking of installing one, you need to look at furniture placement and realistic and practical for your home.
If this is the case, you might be wondering how far you should position furniture from your baseboard heaters and how much clearance you need to leave. Not leaving an appropriate gap can be a safety issue, so let’s look at this.
You need at least twelve inches of clearance around a baseboard heater. This goes in all directions, remember, so it’s no good putting things directly above or directly in front of them; they need to safely (and efficiently) vent heat into the room, and they can’t do that if there are things in the way.
General Baseboard Clearance Recommendations
So, how close can objects be? Well, the general clearance recommendations are that you should not have anything within twelve inches of the baseboard heater.
This allows the heater to vent heat safely into the room and also improves its efficiency because the heat isn’t just being absorbed by the furniture but is being conveyed into the room.
However, you should always read up on a manufacturer’s specific guidelines, as some baseboard heaters output more heat than others, and the heater makers may have a different idea about how much clearance is needed to keep the heater operating safely.
Some may even suggest that less than twelve inches is sufficient, in which case, it’s up to your judgment. The manufacturer’s guidelines should be safe to follow, but you may choose to leave a larger gap for the sake of safety.
This is up to you and depends on your assessment of your furnishings, how flammable they are, and how nervous you are about the fire. Baseboard heaters carry a very low risk of causing fires, but it can happen, so it’s important to be careful.
Space Between A Baseboard Heater And The Floor
This will depend upon the guidelines issued by the manufacturer. Many baseboard heaters can be safely set on the floor as they are designed to output heat through the sides and the top. There will be a guard in place that prevents your floor from getting too hot.
However, it would help if you took the carpeting you have in the room. A thick carpet may require the baseboard heater to be raised slightly so that any of the heater’s openings is not heating the carpet. This could again present a fire hazard.
Some baseboard heaters are not designed to be set on the floor, and these will have guidelines about how much space needs to be allowed beneath them.
On the whole, however, most baseboard heaters are designed to be integrated with your baseboard, making them discreet, if not the most popular heating system.
Baseboard Heater Height
What about the height of a baseboard heater? How much space above them do you need to leave before you can hang soft furnishings (e.g., curtains, blinds, tapestries) or things like pictures?
Most baseboard heaters are between eight and ten inches tall, and you need to leave another twelve inches above this for safety, particularly with flammable material.
If you have a window above the baseboard heaters, you need to check whether there is enough clearance between the heaters and the curtains. If there is less than twelve inches, the curtains could pose a fire hazard because they will get hot when the heater is on. You may have to have them shortened or position the heater elsewhere for safety.
You should also check that any pictures, decorations, or electrical outlets are far enough out of the way. Finally, don’t put things on the top of the baseboard heater, even if it’s tempting! This isn’t safe as the top can get very hot and could cause a fire.
Space In Front Of Baseboard Heaters
Most of the heat from a baseboard heater is put out in front of the unit, so you need to be careful about what you put in front of it. Again, check the manufacturer’s guidelines, but most people recommend placing furniture at least three feet away from the front of the units.
This allows plenty of space for heat to dissipate and will ensure the heaters are warming your room, rather than the back of your couch! Don’t try and put furniture in front and close to the heater.
You may be surprised by how much heat a heater puts out, which could be dangerous, especially with soft furnishings. Even if it doesn’t cause a fire, it could damage the furniture, leaving marks on it and possibly making it smell strange due to being heated.
Those three feet may be a frustrating amount of space to dedicate to a heater, but it will ensure your system is operating efficiently and make your baseboards safe.
Baseboard Heater Side Clearance
What about at the sides? How much space do you need to leave on either side of the baseboard heater? Fortunately, less! You can afford to put things up to six inches away from the baseboard heater edges, as considerably less heat is put out on the edges, and therefore the fire risk is significantly reduced.
You should still check the guidelines that came with your heating system if the manufacturers have a different recommendation, but six inches will usually be sufficient for safety.
Because of this, many people choose to position their baseboard heaters near the center of the wall, allowing furniture to be in the corner.
Baseboard Heaters And Electrical Outlets
You might be wondering about your electrical outputs. How far away from the heaters do these need to be?
You have a secondary consideration here – how much heat does the output generate, and how much damage might be done to a plug getting overheated by the double heat from both the output and the heater?
It’s also important to think about where the cord from the outlet will run. If it is going to trail down in front of or even onto the heater, it isn’t safe at all, so you definitely can’t use an outlet near a baseboard heater.
Directly above the heater is the worst position because of the cord issue. If you can redirect the cord, you can position an electrical outlet above a heater as long as it is more than twelve inches away (and its cord will be too).
At twelve inches above the heater, enough warmth should have dissipated that the outlet becomes safe. However, you may be better off just finding another position for the outlet.
You can position outlets at either end of the heater, although you should still think about where the cord will run.
You might be able to put your outlet beneath the baseboard heater (since heat rises and there will be no risk of the cord touching the heater). This could solve the problem if you need the outlet in a particular place, but you need to be careful and consult the guidelines and/or a professional first.
Don’t put outlets in near heaters and hope for the best. You may end up with fried electronics, awful smells, and possibly a house fire as a result. Position outlets away from sources of heat for safety.
Baseboard Heater Safety Tips
So, what else should you think about when it comes to baseboard heaters and safety?
Children are a big factor. If you have young children or young children visit you, keep them away from the heaters if possible.
The heating element could seriously burn a child, and many children will want to poke things into the holes of the baseboard heater. An object could get stuck, which poses a fire hazard. Children need to be told why the heaters are dangerous or physically blocked from accessing them.
Secondly, dust. You should, from time to time, vacuum out your baseboard heaters very thoroughly. Dust is not necessarily a safety factor, but it will create a peculiar “burnt” smell when you first use your heaters for a season, and it isn’t suitable for the system.
Run a vacuum along the edges of the heater, and if possible, pop the cover off so that you can clean inside the unit with the vacuum cleaner.
Having a single thermostat for all the baseboards in one room (if there are several) is also a good idea. This makes your heaters operate more predictably and stops them from affecting each other so much.
Furniture needs to be at least twelve inches from most baseboard heaters, and you shouldn’t make exceptions to this rule, as the heat could damage your furniture or pose a fire risk. Instead, follow the guidelines that came with the baseboard heater, and always err on the side of caution.
If you haven’t made a decision about using baseboard heaters, we have a list of the best alternatives to baseboard heaters that are more energy efficient.