How to Choose an Electric Baseboard Heater

Selecting the right electric baseboard heater for your home can seem overwhelming, with so many brands, wattages, and features to choose from. As experienced home heating professionals, we recommend focusing on a few key factors to make sure you pick the perfect model for your needs.

Determine the Room Size

The first step is calculating the square footage of the room or area you want to heat. As a general guideline:

  • 100-150 watts per square foot for well-insulated rooms.
  • 150-200 watts per square foot for rooms with average insulation.
  • 200-250 watts per square foot for poorly insulated spaces.

Measure the length and width of the room in feet, then multiply to find the total square footage. This will tell you the minimum wattage capacity needed for sufficient heating. Choosing a heater with higher wattage gives you more power and more options for thermostat settings.

Example: A standard 12 x 12 foot bedroom is 144 square feet. With average insulation, you would need an electric baseboard heater with 144 x 150 watts = 21,600 watts or more. Round up to the nearest common heater wattage like 22,500 watts.

Always opt for a slightly higher wattage than the minimum recommendation to allow adjusting the temperature. Having some extra power also helps quickly recover heat after opening doors and windows.

Consider Placement and Coverage

The layout of your room impacts where you place the heater and how much of the space it can cover. Here are some typical setups:

  • Long continuous heaters along the base of exterior walls. These cover the whole wall evenly.
  • Shorter heaters below specific windows. These direct heat where you need it.
  • L-shaped heaters for corner installations. Choose when wall space is limited.
  • Island heaters mounted on pedestals in open areas. Heats the immediate zone around it.

Measure the wall or section where you want heat and choose a heater or combination of heaters that fills the space. Longer heaters obviously provide wider coverage from a single unit. You may need multiple heaters around different walls in larger rooms.

Also check the heating capacity in the product specifications. This tells you the square feet the unit can effectively heat. Make sure this matches your space needs.

Evaluate Key Features

Look for these useful features when selecting a model:

  • Thermostat: Choose an adjustable or programmable thermostat to customize temperature settings. This gives you maximum control over comfort and energy use.
  • Adjustable louvers: Louvers let you direct heat away from furniture or other obstructions for optimal distribution. Models with adjustable angles give the most flexibility.
  • Fan-forced circulation: Fans spread warmth more uniformly across a room to prevent cold spots. This is ideal for larger areas.
  • Automatic shutoff: If the heater tips over or overheats, a safety shutoff instantly cuts power. This prevents hazards and damage.
  • Moisture-resistance: For bathrooms or other damp locations, look for heaters promoted as moisture-resistant or rustproof. Avoid corrosion.
  • Digital display: Allows easy monitoring of settings and temperatures. Backlit displays improve visibility.
  • Remote control: A handy convenience for adjusting the thermostat from across the room. Helpful if the heater is hard to access.
  • Portability: Compact portable heaters have built-in handles or wheels. These can move from room to room as needed.

Estimate Operating Costs

The wattage rating determines how much energy an electric baseboard heater consumes. To estimate the operating costs:

  • Find the wattage of your heater (for example, 1500 watts).
  • Multiply watts by hours used per day, then by 30 to get the monthly consumption in watt-hours. (1500 watts x 6 hours x 30 days = 270,000 watt-hours per month).
  • Check your electricity rate per 1000 watt-hours, also called a kilowatt-hour (kWh). The national average is around 12 cents/kWh.
  • Multiply the rate by monthly consumption to get the estimated cost. (270 kWh x $0.12 = $32.40 per month for this example).

As you can see, more powerful heaters and longer running times increase the energy costs. Balance wattage needs versus operating budgets. Also consider supplemental zone heating to lower the main heater use.

Match Brands to Your Budget

Baseboard heaters range widely in price based on the brand, build quality, and features. We recommend considering:

Cadet – Very affordable, great for budget shoppers. Straightforward manual models.

Dimplex – Moderate pricing with emphasis on safety and reliability. Lots of options.

Berko – Slightly higher-end with premium features like cast-iron elements.

Marley – Top tier manufacturing from this industry leader. Maximum power and controls.

QMark – Renowned commercial-grade construction. Made to last in tough conditions.

You’ll pay more for proven durability, advanced functions, and capacity to heat bigger areas. Balance performance needs with how much you can invest.

Choose Appropriate Voltage

Electric baseboard heaters run on standard household 120-volt circuits or larger 240-volt circuits. Consider:

  • 120-volt: Works on normal outlets. Best for smaller heaters up to 1500 watts.
  • 240-volt: Requires special outlets. For larger capacity heaters over 1500 watts. Offers more power.
  • Dual voltage: Switches between 120v and 240v. Combination plug for flexibility.

Check the input voltage on the heater specifications. If over 1500 watts, make sure you install appropriate 240v outlets during rough-in wiring. The dual voltage option adds convenience if you want to use other 120v circuits as needed.

Select Desired Element Types

The internal heating elements that generate warmth use different materials:

  • Steel or aluminum elements – Most common and budget-friendly option. Durable and reliable.
  • Ceramic elements – More expensive but heat up faster. Retain heat well when power is off.
  • Mica insulation – Highly heat-resistant for protecting components. Improves safety.
  • Cast iron – Used in premium models for maximum heat radiation. May include fins or plates for more surface area.

Steel or aluminum elements work well in most cases. Cast iron and ceramic add efficiency and longevity but cost more. Choose mica insulated models for installations near combustibles like drapes.

Purchase Appropriate Safety Accessories

To operate your new heater safely, be sure to also pick up:

  • Power surge protector – Prevents voltage spikes from damaging the heater. Consider an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for backup power.
  • Outlet guard – If small children are present, cover outlets and block access to the heater. Prevent accidental contact.
  • Wall timer – For better control over when the heater runs. Save energy by setting operating hours.
  • Thermostat guard – A locked cover prevents accidentally changing temperature settings. Maintain consistent comfort and savings.

These additional accessories reduce risks and enhance convenience. Give special consideration to outlets and controls when little kids or pets are in the home.

Allow Time for Professional Installation

Improper installation can lead to fires or shock hazards with electric baseboard heaters. We strongly advise hiring a licensed electrician or certified HVAC technician for setup. They will:

  • Inspect existing wiring and upgrade circuits if needed.
  • Add new 240-volt outlets if required.
  • Securely mount the heater with appropriate fasteners and brackets.
  • Test for grounding, polarity, and amperage to verify safety.
  • Check thermostat operation and heating function.

While DIY installs may seem cheaper, the risks outweigh small savings. Invest in professional installation for peace of mind and years of safe operation.

With the right considerations for your space and needs, electric baseboard heaters provide an affordable, effective heating solution. We hope these tips make it easy to select the perfect model to keep your home cozy and comfortable this winter! Let us know if you need any help with installation or have additional questions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Choosing Electric Baseboard Heaters

Are electric baseboard heaters energy efficient?

Electric baseboard heaters can be an energy efficient option depending on your climate and home. They eliminate duct losses associated with central forced-air heating since heat is generated in each room. Baseboard heaters also allow zonal temperature control so you’re only heating occupied spaces. Look for models with high-density insulation, programmable thermostats, and fan-forced circulation to maximize efficiency.

How do I calculate the size electric baseboard heater I need?

Choosing the right size heater involves multiplying the room’s square footage by the recommended wattage per square foot based on insulation levels (typically 100-250 watts per sq ft). Always round up to the nearest common heater capacity for a safety margin. Also make sure the heater’s listed heating capacity in square feet meets or exceeds your room size.

Can I install an electric baseboard heater myself?

We don’t recommend DIY electric baseboard heater installation due to the risks of fire or shock if wiring and circuits are not properly handled. Hire a licensed electrician or HVAC technician to inspect your existing electrical system, add new outlets if needed, securely mount the heater, and perform safety checks during start up.

How much does it cost to run an electric baseboard heater?

Operating cost depends on the heater wattage, hours used per day, and your local electricity rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Calculate your monthly use in kWh based on the wattage and time operated. Multiply this by your utility rate to get the estimated monthly cost. For example, a 1500 watt heater used 5 hours per day in a 10 cent/kWh region would cost around $22.50 per month to run.

Are electric baseboard heaters safe?

When correctly selected based on room size, professionally installed, and properly maintained, electric baseboard heaters are a safe heating option. Look for key safety features like tip-over auto shutoff, overheat protection, mica insulation, outlet guards if kids are present, and avoiding installation near drapes or combustibles. Never leave running heaters unattended.

How do I clean an electric baseboard heater?

Turn off power to the heater and allow to fully cool before cleaning. Wipe down the external housing with a microfiber cloth, brush attachment, or vacuum hose. Use compressed air to clear any dust from inside. Never immerse in water, spray cleaners, or attempt to open the sealed internal elements. Schedule annual professional cleaning services for optimal safety.

Can electric baseboard heaters cause a fire?

Electric heating equipment is responsible for around 25,000 residential fires per year in the U.S. Baseboard heaters can pose a fire risk if circuits are overloaded, units are dusty or damaged, or flammable items are too close. Prevent fires by choosing the right heater capacity for your electric system, mounting securely away from drapes and furniture, keeping free of dust and debris, and hiring a technician for any needed repairs.

How long do electric baseboard heaters last?

With proper installation and maintenance, you can expect 15-25 years of service life from a quality electric baseboard heater. Higher-end models with sturdy elements and insulation may last 30 years or longer. Factors like build quality, frequency of use, operating temperatures, and environment impact longevity. Keep units free of dust and damage to help them last.

Should I cover my electric baseboard heater?

It’s not recommended to cover electric baseboard heaters with furniture, drapes, clothing, or anything that can obstruct airflow or create a fire hazard. If you have kids or pets, install a thermostat cover or outlet guard instead of attempting to block access by covering vents. Any coverings prevent heat from escaping and raise internal temperatures dangerously high.

Why does my electric baseboard heater keep tripping the breaker?

Frequent circuit breaker tripping usually indicates your heater is overloading the electrical circuit. This could be caused by inadequate wire size, too many devices on one circuit, shorted internal wiring, or a failing heating element. Never increase the circuit breaker capacity to compensate. Have a technician inspect the electrical service and heater to identify and resolve the root issue.


Upgrading to electric baseboard heating is an affordable and effective way to add supplemental or primary warmth to any room. Now that you know how to properly size and select the ideal heater model for your needs, you can heat your home efficiently and comfortably all season long. Just be sure to have a certified professional handle installation and any repairs. Follow our tips to enjoy cozy radiant heating for years to come!