Electric Baseboard Heaters | Basics, Repairs and More | Square One (2024)

What is an electric baseboard heater?

Electric Baseboard Heaters | Basics, Repairs and More | Square One (1)

Electric baseboard heaters are long, narrow devices that run along the bottom of walls. Inside the heater’s aluminum housing is a metal heating element. Electricity runs through the element, which generates heat. Around the element are fins that spread the heat throughout the room. Some units include a thermostat directly on the baseboard, while others are controlled by a wall-mounted thermostat.

Baseboard heaters are almost always located on perimeter walls under windows which helps counteract the cold air entering the home. Electric baseboard heaters heat specific zones, so there will be a separate thermostat for each unit. You can also get programmable thermostats, which will allow you to set the temperature to automatically drop when you’re not around — a great way to reduce energy costs.

Electric baseboard heaters make good supplementary heaters, too. If you have forced-air heating in your home but have colder rooms that need a bit of extra heat, electric baseboard heaters are a good option. You don’t need to make any difficult, expensive modifications to your existing heating system, and you’ve got extra heat right where you need it. You can keep the heat turned down on your primary system, so you’re not wasting energy heating empty rooms.

When it comes to installation, electric baseboard heaters are usually permanently installed and hardwired into the home’s electrical system. But, you can also buy moveable, free-standing units that need to be plugged in to a power outlet.

One advantage of installing baseboard heaters in your home is that they’re almost completely silent. There’s no rumbling furnace in the basem*nt nor droning circulation fans. Plus, baseboard heaters don’t need ductwork. If you’re adding extra heating to an older home, baseboard heating is the simplest solution.

If you’re looking to purchase electric baseboard heaters for your home, Dimplex and Stelpro are popular options.

How do electric baseboard heaters work?

An electric current flows through the electric baseboard’s heating element. The electrical resistance of the heating element causes it to heat up as the electricity tries to flow through it. Baseboard heaters don’t have fans; their heat naturally spreads throughout the room.

Like any heating system, you control baseboard heaters with a thermostat, which is either on the unit itself or on the wall elsewhere in the room. Digital thermostats on the wall are the most accurate.

To operate a baseboard heater, set the desired temperature on the thermostat; the heater will turn on until that temperature is reached. If the temperature later drops, the heater turns on again.

There should be a minimum clearance of 3/4 inch between the heater and the floor. This allows cool air to enter the heater from underneath and, once heated, flow out through the fins.

Draperies above the heater should have at least 12 inches of space between them and the unit. However, some manufacturers suggest 4 to 6 inches is enough. Keep in mind that draperies above heaters have resulted in home fires — it’s best to be on the safe side.

Also, don’t place furniture (especially fabric furniture), or other items too close to the front of the unit. Some experts say 6 inches of space is enough, while others recommend 10 to 12 inches.

In addition to being a fire hazard, furniture can restrict airflow. If your baseboard heater is close to the floor, even a high pile carpet can block airflow into the unit.

Installing a baseboard heater

The baseboard heater installation process has two parts: installing the heater itself and setting up the electrical wiring.

Mounting the heater to the wall is straightforward. The electrical work, however, usually calls for a licensed electrician. Depending on your local bylaws, you might also need to secure a permit before starting the installation.

Here’s the rough outline of how to install an electric baseboard heater:

Step 1: Measure

You’ll be mounting the heater to the wall, so the first step is to find the studs in the wall on which you’re installing it. Use a stud finder and mark the stud locations with a pencil. If there’s baseboard moulding in the room, you’ll need to carve a chunk of it away to make space for the heater. Measure the length of your baseboard heater and mark that length on the baseboard.

Step 2: Cut

First, you can cut away the baseboard from where your heater will go. If your baseboard is soft or thin, you can hack it away by scoring your cut marks with a knife, then finishing the job with a chisel. Otherwise, you can use an oscillating cutting tool if you’re comfortable with power tools. You can also remove the whole board, cut it as needed, and re-install the sections that the heater won’t cover.

Step 3: Wire

This part should only be done by a qualified electrician with the requisite permits in place. If you’re qualified, you probably already know how to wire a baseboard heater. Baseboard heaters need dedicated circuits, so you’ll need to add a circuit to your breaker box (but make sure it stays shut off for now). Then, run wire to the heater and the thermostat (if you have a wall-mounted thermostat). Finally, connect the wire to the heater itself. There should be an electrical panel on the heater that you can access by removing a screw and lifting the cover. Under this cover, you’ll find the wires that need to be connected to the power supply and thermostat.

Step 4: Mount

Once the wiring is in place, you can mount the heater to the wall. Normally, you do this by putting screws through the back panel of the heater and into the wall studs. You might have to pre-drill holes in the back of the heater to match where your studs are.

Installation and operating costs

Installation costs

The installation costs for baseboard heaters are typically between $400 and $800 per unit, including materials and labour.

Baseboard heater units cost anywhere from $50 to $150. Hiring an electrician to do the electrical work costs between $65 and $130 per hour.

Operational costs

The operating costs of baseboard heaters, meanwhile, depend on your local utility rates.

You can estimate the cost if you know how many watts your heater pulls, and how much you typically pay for electricity per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

Here’s an example:

Start with your heater’s wattage. Let’s say it’s 1,000 watts (W), which is 1 kilowatt (kW). This would be a small heater.

If you run your 1 kW heater for 1 hour, you’ve used 1 kWh of electricity. If you run it for 24 hours, you’ve used 24 kWh. If you do that every day for a 30-day month, you’ll have used 720 kWh.

If you pay 10 cents per kWh for your electricity, this will cost you $72 for the month.

Obviously, you don’t expect your heater to run 24/7, but you get the idea.

Using electricity to heat your home can be expensive.

According to BC Hydro, if you use electricity to heat your home, the cost will make up approximately 44% of your electric bill. By comparison, your kitchen appliances will make up about 12% and lighting about 9%. Therefore, the best way to save money on your electricity is to make sure you operate your heaters as efficiently as possible.

BC Hydro recommends these steps to save electricity:

  • Lower the heat when you can. If you’re not using a room, turn the heat down in that room. Don’t turn it completely off, though; you don’t want frozen water pipes.
  • Choose the lowest temperature. For every degree above 20 °C, you’ll pay an extra 5%. If you turn the heat down to 16 °C, you can save up to 10% on your electric bill.
  • Use programmable thermostats. This way you have heat only when you need it. You don’t have to worry about remembering to turn it down when you go to bed or leave for work. Program it to go down to 16 °C at bedtime, and have it go up to 20 °C again when you get up in the morning.
  • Remove any obstructions. Electric baseboard heaters work best when there is a good airflow around them. Move furniture and draperies away to improve efficiency and prevent fires.
  • Clean the heaters. At least once a year, vacuum the heaters to remove as much as dust as possible.

What should you do when something goes wrong?

If the heat stops, or there’s too little heat coming out of the unit, there are several possible reasons why:

  • The thermostat is turned too low. Adjust your thermostat to the desired temperature and see if the heat comes on. Remember: there should be a separate thermostat for each heating unit.
  • A circuit breaker has been tripped. Most electric baseboard heaters are wired into the home, as opposed to being plugged in. They should also have a dedicated circuit. If the circuit breaker has tripped, reset it. If it continues to trip, call in a professional. There could be a problem with the wiring.
  • Furniture or drapery is blocking the heater. Make sure there is a space of few inches in front of the heater, and several inches above.
  • A buildup of dust is causing the unit to operate inefficiently. This can also cause a burning smell. Turn off the unit and vacuum the fins. You can also wipe the housing with a damp cloth.
  • Carpet may be blocking the bottom of the heater. There needs to be sufficient clearance under the heater to allow cool air to flow in.

If all else fails, call a certified technician. There could be a defect in the thermostat or in the unit itself. Dealing with electricity is dangerous, so if it seems there is something wrong, be sure to call a professional.


Call us


5:00 AM - 6:00 PM




  • About us
  • Why us
  • Reviews
  • Careers
  • Contact us


  • Helpful articles
  • Common questions
  • News + media
  • Report a claim
  • Service concerns


  • Terms of use
  • Privacy policy
  • Transparency
  • Licenses + underwriters
  • Site map

Insurance is sold by Square One Insurance Services (1410-650 W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6B 4N8). Home insurance is underwritten by The Mutual Fire Insurance Company of British Columbia. Legal protection insurance (not sold in Quebec) is underwritten by HDI Global Specialty SE.

Electric Baseboard Heaters | Basics, Repairs and More | Square One (2024)


What causes electric baseboard heaters to stop working? ›

If your baseboard heater isn't working, you should check the circuit breaker, the thermostat and the heater itself. Call your local technician if there are any issues with the electrical components of your unit. In some cases, you may want to consider replacing your baseboard heater.

Is it worth replacing old electric baseboard heaters? ›

When Should You Replace Your Electric Baseboard Heater? Replacing your heater with a more efficient heating system can be done at any time, but if you're cost-conscious, we recommend that you do it as soon as you notice a loss of efficiency.

What is the life expectancy of electric baseboard heaters? ›

Electric baseboard heaters have an average life expectancy of about 20 years. However, as with most things, they can last much longer with proper maintenance.

Can baseboard heaters be repaired? ›

Baseboard Heater Repair

Baseboard heaters are extremely efficient. Still, as with any appliance, it's normal to encounter an occasional problem. Whether your heater won't start, you're experiencing uneven temperatures or notice unusual smells, call Air Tech to assess and repair your issue right away!

Do electric baseboard heaters need maintenance? ›

The solution to keeping any damage to the heater from happening is to clean baseboard heaters twice a year—once before the cold season starts, and then after the cold season ends—especially if you have pets. Various cracks where dust can travel should also be tightly sealed.

Why wont my baseboard heater stop clicking? ›

These sounds are mostly due to the metal reacting to sudden changes in temperature when they are turned on after a prolonged shutdown, or when they begin to heat up when the temperature drops. Noises are caused by the expansion when starting, and the contraction when cooling, of the metal components of the baseboards.

How much does it cost to replace electric baseboard heater? ›

The average cost of electric baseboard heat installation is $725. However, costs could be as low as $200 for simple installations and reach $4,000 in cases where electrical upgrades may be necessary to complete the job.

Do electric baseboards wear out? ›

There really isn't much to wear out with the old baseboard heating system and beyond periodically vacuuming the fins inside them in the fall to get the accumulated dust out there's not much to do. I have encountered thermostats that go a bit haywire on units the age of yours.

Can electric baseboard heaters go bad? ›

Even during normal operation, an electric baseboard heater takes a lot of abuse. Anything from carbon buildup between its thermostat's contacts to a loose electrical connection in the circuit-breaker panel can cause a system failure. Troubleshooting the baseboard heater's electric circuit pinpoints the exact fault.

Are old electric baseboard heaters safe? ›

Risk of Fire and Burns

It's very unusual. Occasionally, burns or fire connected to an electric heater might be reported. Older baseboard heaters have gaps at the top of the heater where small toys can fall in and cause problems. Drapery or furniture placed too close to heaters can also be a problem.

What is the disadvantage of baseboard electric heat? ›

Baseboard heat is expensive

And they don't require ducts. But there's one big problem with baseboard heating: it's incredibly expensive to operate. That is, homes with baseboard heat have much higher utility bills than homes with heat pumps or other HVAC systems.

How much does it cost to put in new baseboard heaters? ›

The cost to install electric baseboard heaters is $831 on average, though your total cost will depend on the specific design of your home. The typical cost to install electric baseboard heaters is $831 . Depending on the specifics of your project, you can expect to pay anywhere from from $381 to $1,283 .

Can you replace baseboard heaters with something else? ›

Ductless heat pumps/mini split systems are one of the top alternatives to baseboard heaters if you're looking for the energy efficiency of electric heat but want to avoid the drawbacks listed above. A ductless mini split provides all the benefits of zoned climate control, and doesn't require ductwork.

Why does my baseboard heater thermostat click but no heat? ›

A clogged filter is probably the most common reason for this problem, so it's a good place to start investigating. Take a look at your filter and, if it's really dirty and clogged, it means there's restricted airflow to your furnace. This may be keeping it from being able to create heat.

Are baseboard heaters on their own circuit? ›

A 240-volt baseboard heater requires its own dedicated 20-amp or 30-amp 240-volt electrical circuit. A 20-amp circuit can safely provide 3,800 watts of power, while a 30-amp circuit is suitable for up to 5,700 watts. The standard circuit cable for 20-amp circuits is 12-gauge; 30-amp circuits need a 10-gauge cable.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Sen. Emmett Berge

Last Updated:

Views: 6145

Rating: 5 / 5 (60 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Sen. Emmett Berge

Birthday: 1993-06-17

Address: 787 Elvis Divide, Port Brice, OH 24507-6802

Phone: +9779049645255

Job: Senior Healthcare Specialist

Hobby: Cycling, Model building, Kitesurfing, Origami, Lapidary, Dance, Basketball

Introduction: My name is Sen. Emmett Berge, I am a funny, vast, charming, courageous, enthusiastic, jolly, famous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.