Baseboard Heaters Review
How to Choose a Baseboard Heater
The top performers in our review are the Dimplex PC4015W31, the Gold Award winner; the Cadet 8F2000W, the Silver Award winner; and the Cadet EBHN1500W, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
Consumers can turn to baseboard heaters for a variety of zonal heating needs. Electric baseboard heating is a great option if you're building a new home or office and want to reduce your reliance on natural gas. By installing a baseboard heater in every room, you gain greater control over the temperature in each part of the building. A baseboard unit can also warm up a room in a central-heated home that has cold spots caused by poor ventilation.
Electric and hydronic are the two main types of baseboard heaters. Electric heaters are typically cheaper and more durable than hydronic units. They utilize a convection heating element to distribute heat. However, the heat generated by these electric units dissipates quickly as the electric baseboard heating elements and outer steel case cool down immediately when you turn the heater off.
In comparison, hydronic systems warm up water, or some other liquid, which radiates an even heat throughout the room. Although hydronic heaters, or hot water baseboard heaters, take longer to raise the room temperature, they stay warm much longer than electric heaters when you turn them off. This makes hot water baseboard radiators the more energy-efficient option, though they often cost much more initially than electric baseboard heaters.
The baseboard heating units we reviewed require special wiring, unlike simple plug-in or portable baseboard heaters. This means you’ll need to have supply wires – a hot wire and a neutral wire – in the location where you mount the heater. If you're replacing older baseboard heaters, supply wires should already be accessible in the existing location. However, if you’re mounting an electric baseboard heater for the first time, you will need to wire the location with the necessary supply wires first. If you’re unfamiliar with the process of running wire behind walls, consult with an electrician for assistance.
Placing a baseboard heater isn’t a simple matter of finding an empty wall and then installing it. It's best to place the heater next to a doorway, directly under a window or along an external wall of the house. This should effectively eliminate cold spots so you can heat a room evenly. Heaters shouldn’t be placed beneath a power outlet as this creates a potential safety hazard.
While you can place electric baseboard heating on carpet, you should make sure its air intake toward the bottom of the device is clear of all obstructions. Likewise, you should leave 6 inches of clearance on either side of the heater, as well as 12 inches above the unit. This ensures all obstructions are clear of the heater and limits fire risks.
Electric baseboard heaters are ideal for heating spaces between 50 and 200 square feet. If your target area is not in this range, another type of heater might be a better solution. To accommodate businesses with areas larger than 200 square feet, like garages or warehouses, industrial-grade heaters will prove sufficient. For areas smaller than 50 square feet, space heaters are a low-cost, portable option you can simply plug into a wall outlet. You can also consider infrared heaters or cast iron baseboard radiators for more focused and rapid heating. To learn more, check out our articles on baseboard heaters.
Baseboard Heaters: Focus on Wattage and Width
Electric baseboard heaters come in a vast range of widths and wattages. Both of these govern the unit’s ability to heat a room quickly. For the purposes of our product ranking, we focused largely on heaters between 500 and 1,000 watts. We also limited our reviews to heaters between 30 and 50 inches in width. These parameters account for the most common and popular units sold to consumers.
Prior to purchasing a baseboard radiator, factor in the size of the room you’ll install the unit in. To determine the ideal wattage for your room, multiply the square footage by 10. For example, a 100-square-foot room could use a 1,000-watt heater. This will ensure that you can heat up a room quickly and keep it warm efficiently. A heater with too little wattage might heat a room eventually, but it could take hours.
Baseboard Heaters: What We Evaluated, What We Found
We compared the heaters in our review based on their heating efficiency, voltage compatibility and warranty length. Here's how heaters earned points in our comparison:
We generally awarded the highest scores to heaters that generate the most warmth while taking up the least amount of floor space. For example, our top-ranking unit, the 60-inch Dimplex, puts out twice as much heat as the 58-inch QMark HBB. Floor space is an important factor as baseboard heaters require all obstructions, such as furniture and curtains, be removed to avoid overheating, reduce electrical dangers and increase airflow efficiency. However, for homes where floor space isn't an issue, this efficiency metric might not be a big consideration.
Although hydronic and electric baseboard heaters differ fundamentally, we do not prefer one over the other. That decision comes down to your own heating preferences.
Besides being the most efficient baseboard heater in our comparison, the Dimplex is also the only model with a built-in thermostat. The advantage of a built-in thermostat is that you can control the individual unit’s heat without needing a wall-mounted control. Although the Dimplex heater was the only unit with a thermostat already built in, many units offer thermostat accessories for an additional fee and some assembly. In the absence of a built-in thermostat, you can hire an electrician to wire your home for whole-home syncing, which means you can control multiple heaters from the same wall-mounted controls if you connect each heater to the same thermostat, either wirelessly or through in-wall wiring, depending on the heater. If your home is not already wired for wall-mounted thermostats, the inclusion of a built-in thermostat on your baseboard heater can provide significant savings over the cost of hiring an electrician to run wires behind your walls.
Almost every model we reviewed is compatible with 240-volt wiring setups, with the exception of the Cadet 2F500W heater, which is only compatible with 120-volt wiring. The distinction between voltages is important to note. Whereas smaller heaters only require 120-volt wiring, larger and higher-output models need 240-volt power due to the energy requirements of the heating element. Many homes are wired with high-energy appliances in mind, with 240-volt wires throughout the house. However, older homes typically haven't been wired for 240-volt appliances and require more electrical work to bring supply wires to the heaters.
Only one heater we tested, the Dimplex PCM, is compatible with both voltages. This makes the Dimplex more versatile than most baseboard heaters. However, to get the best performance out of this heater, a 240-volt setup is recommended.
Warranty & Support
Whereas some baseboards are covered for one, five or seven years, the best baseboard heaters are covered for 10 years or longer. Ideally, a warranty will cover the full cost of any replacement parts during the warranty period, including shipping for both the old and new pieces. Installing the replacement parts falls on you, which means you may need to hire a technician to reassemble the heater. If you repair or replace parts yourself, you can reference online manuals to help.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate and research all products and services to simulate the consumer experience as closely as possible. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Baseboard Heaters: Our Verdict and Recommendations
Depending on the size of the room you want to heat and the amount of space available for installing the heater, picking a unit can be a simple matter. Based on our baseboard heater reviews, the Cadet 4F1000W is our top pick due largely to its compact design, capable heating elements and lifetime warranty. Should you instead desire a hydronic model for its long-lasting heating benefits, the QMark HBB 1254 is our top choice due to its high wattage and BTU output, fast heating ability and 10-year warranty. If you’re looking for a budget heater for a very small room like a bathroom, the Cadet 2F500W is a useful option with a 500-watt heat output, wall mounting kit and 30-inch width.