Electric baseboard heaters are a type of electric resistor which works by converting electrical energy into heat, much the same way that electric stoves or ovens do. A thermostat is used to control the flow of electricity to a heating element located inside a long protective pipe inside the heater case. When the thermostat is set high enough, the heater is turned on, electricity flows through element causing it to heat up. The pipe has hundreds of metal fins attached to help disburse the heat generated by the element. Cold air is pulled through the bottom of the heater case where it is heated as it escapes through the top of the case. This creates a vacuum, pulling cool air towards the baseboard heater. This type of air flow is called convection current. Once the convection current is flowing, it spreads heat to the entire room.
Electric baseboard efficiency
If you want to keep your energy bills in check it pays to make sure you are using your baseboard heaters properly and that they are working efficiently.
Just like forced air heating, the key to efficient baseboard heating is unobstructed airflow - anything blocking the flow of air in and around the heater will decrease its efficiency. Make sure there is ample space around the unit to create convection. The biggest culprit for reduced airflow is poorly placed furniture such as beds and couches. Drapery can be problematic too. Besides weakened efficiency, drapes that are in close proximity to the heater can result in a fire safety hazard.
In my books, baseboard heating is most effective when the temperature setting is set at comfortable or near comfortable levels. Resist the temptation to crank up the thermostat higher than the temperature actually desired. Doing so only increases your energy bill, especially if you forget to turn the thermostat back down. The room you are wanting to heat will warm up at the same rate either to the desired temperature or the elevated one.
Hugh Cairns baseboard efficiency tip - Turning the thermostat down too far will only cause heat sources in adjacent spaces to work harder to heat the overall structure. Also, setting the temperature too low will likely cause excessive recovery times. Cold rooms have cold contents, heating them up with convection air can be a lengthy process.
Setting the temperature – Electric baseboard thermostats
Most electric baseboard applications have manual dial thermostats, however programmable thermostats are available.
Manual thermostats have to be physically re-set every time you want to change the temperature in a room, making it easy to forget to re-set them. Considering a small home has 10 thermostats, it’s not easy to juggle them to suit your best interests.
Hugh Cairns baseboard heating tip - Using programmable electric baseboard thermostats will assist you in balancing the heating needs of your home. Stabilizing the heat distribution will make the transition from room to room more consistent and comfortable. You may need patience; it can take several days of adjustments to balance the system.
Programmable thermostats offer cost effective features like setback settings and overrides. When using programmable thermostats you can customize the zone to match your needs. If there is a time during the day when the room or the home is unoccupied an extended periods of time, it makes sense to adjust the temperature during those periods. Programmable thermostats are more precise than manual thermostats and do a better job of keeping room temperature constant. By avoiding ups and downs in temperatures, and enjoying comfortable temperatures while the room is in use, you will feel more comfortable and you’ll save some energy.
Photo: Contributed - (Photo: Hugh Cairns)
Using thermal imaging technology, it's easy to see that the close proximity of the drapery is a fire safety hazard.
For more tips on electric baseboard costs, placement, maintenance and replacement click here.